Microsoft Corp. today announced the availability of Microsoft Office 365 in Malaysia, giving local businesses access to the company's next-generation cloud productivity service. Office 365 brings together Microsoft Office Professional Plus, Microsoft SharePoint Online, Microsoft Exchange Online and Microsoft Lync Online in an always-up-to-date service, for as little as US$2 per user per month. Malaysia is among the 40 countries to roll out the cloud service which brings powerful productivity and collaborative tools to businesses of all sizes. These tools put enterprise-grade email, shared documents, instant messaging, video and Web conferencing, portals and more at everyone's fingertips. A little more than a year ago, our Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer was in Malaysia to unveil Microsoft's cloud computing strategy. The availability of Office 365 in our market today is a testament to Microsoft's commitment to bring the latest cloud computing technologies to Malaysian businesses, said Ananth Lazarus, Managing Director of Microsoft Malaysia. Office 365 was first made available to Malaysian businesses as part of a public beta that launched in April, giving their employees new ways to work together with ease, on virtually any device, using the familiar Microsoft Office applications that they already know and love - all at a predictable monthly cost, backed by the industry's most robust financially-backed service-level agreement (SLA). For large organisations, Office 365 allows IT staff to deliver a better, always up-to-date experience with a range of service plans designed for enterprise needs. They can focus on more strategic work and leave the rest to trusted experts, said Ananth. For small and medium enterprises (SMEs), it is a game-changer, he added. SMEs play a very critical and strategic role in Malaysia's economy, and thus in its development. About 99.2% of businesses in Malaysia are SMEss, accounting for 37.1% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP); about 56% of total employment and 20% of exports. This is why the sector is a key area in the Government's Economic Transformation Programme or ETP. Office 365 gives local SMEs enterprise-class IT capabilities without the need for them to have dedicated IT staff, while enterprises can get these world-class capabilities without the need to maintain their own datacentres, said Ananth. All businesses can now access enterprise-class business solutions for the price of a good cup of coffee, on a per user per month basis, effectively removing the need for significant upfront investments in IT infrastructure and maintenance, he added. A Game-Changer for Businesses of Two to Two Hundred Thousand Moving to the cloud with Office 365 doesn't require a business to change the way it works, because the service is based on familiar productivity tools people know and trust, including Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Access and more. Employees get new ways to work together with ease, on virtually any device or mobile phone, and businesses get the reliability, security and IT controls they need in the cloud, even without dedicated IT staff. For Jaime Chong, Director, Operations and Special Projects, Crystal Edge Sdn Bhd, the key benefits are increased productivity and collaboration. We're an agency, so communication is certainly an important aspect of our business. With Lync Online we are able to communicate with our colleagues, business partners and customers around the world in a more engaging and effective manner through Instant Messaging (IM), video calls and online meetings which include ad-hoc online meetings with audio, video and screen sharing. All this can be done with the convenience just several mouse clicks, she said. Now we are able to gain operational efficiencies within our business workflow through reduction in long distance call charges, travel costs as well as the cost of third-party conferencing solutions. About Office 365 Office 365 offers a range of service plans for a predictable monthly price from as little as US$4 per user per month. With Office 365 for small businesses, customers can be up and running with Office Web Apps, Microsoft Exchange Online, Microsoft SharePoint Online, Microsoft Lync Online and an external website in minutes. Office 365 for enterprises has an array of choices, from simple email to comprehensive suites to meet the needs of businesses of all sizes. Customers can now get Microsoft Office Professional Plus on a pay-as-you-go basis with cloud-based versions of the industry's leading business communications and collaborations services. Each of these plans come with the advanced I.T. controls, security, 24x7 IT support and reliability you expect from Microsoft, with a financially backed 99.9% uptime SLA. Availability Office 365 for small businesses and Office 365 for enterprises are now available in 40 markets worldwide. Businesses can try it for free for 30 days by signing up at www.office365.com or from their local Microsoft partner.
Thursday, June 30, 2011
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
No more excuses: 9 reasons why smart businesses upgrade to Google Apps for Business
By Susan Cline | June 23, 2011, 7:02 AM PDT
Google offers two types of messaging and productivity solutions for businesses; Google Apps (free) and Google Apps for Business. They both include Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Docs, Google Sites and an Administration Panel for your domain. Google Apps is free, and Google Apps is $50/user/year. But there are some very compelling reasons to upgrade to Google Apps for Business.
Google Apps and Google Apps for Business
Businesses using Google Apps for their daily operations should upgrade to Google Apps for Business. The extra features, integrations and security create a peace of mind that far outweighs the price tag.
Google Apps for Business users have a quota of 25GB of email storage space, Google Apps (free) users only get 7GB. Although 7GB may be more than you had with your legacy system, 7GB of space can be filled up pretty quickly these days. Given the number of emails most businesses get per day and compliance laws on email retention, business users will need the extra space.
2. Mobile Sync and BES Integration
Google Apps for Business can also be integrated with Blackberry Enterprise Server (BES). The BES connects with Google, authenticates using OAuth and syncs using Gmail Sync, Calendar and Contacts. The Google Sync (Active Sync) tool which syncs mail, contacts, and calendars with smart phones like iPhones and Androids is a feature of both editions of Google Apps. However, in Google Apps for Business this feature can be restricted or turned off as a security measure. This allows an Administrator to better comply with the company's policies around mobile devices.
3. Outlook Interoperability
Google has a tool called Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook (GASMO). This tool allows users to access their Google Apps mail, contact and calendar through the familiar skin of Microsoft Outlook. This tool is like "training wheels" for those who are resistant to move to a web-based email system. This tool is especially useful with Administrative Assistants and other heavy calendar and email users. GASMO is only available for Google Apps for Business users.
Google Apps for Business Administrators have access to 24-hour phone and email support. A real person actually answers the phone or replies by email. Free Google Apps subscriptions do not include phone or email support. The administrators and users must comb the Google User Help Forums and Google Help Center articles for answers. With the constant evolution of Google Apps these articles and posts may be out of date and unreliable.
5. Google Video
Google Apps for Business users can activate the Google Video service. Google Video is like a private YouTube within your company. Users can upload videos, which become searchable and streamable online. The videos can only be shared within the company. Videos provide amazing training opportunities as well as communication tools for virtual or global companies.
6. Google Groups for Business
Although the interface is poor and inconsistent with the rest of Google Apps, this service is a necessity for email communication. Groups allow Admins and/or users to create groups which can be used as distribution lists, shared mailboxes and internal announcement lists. Groups also provide a searchable web-based archive of all group communications.
7. Business Security
Google Apps security is a very popular and somewhat controversial topic of discussion. I won't attempt to go into it in this short blog article today. However, Google Apps (free and paid) is the first cloud based messaging and collaboration suite to achieve FISMA (Federal Information Security Management Act) certification. Google Apps for Business offer the additional security features of SSO integration, 2-step user verification, forced SSL, and custom password strength requirements.
Security is not the only consideration when choosing a business productivity and messaging solution. The other important factor is reliability; the service must be available and have very few service disruptions. Google Apps for Business guarantees a 99.9% up-time in the Service Level Agreement. This works out to be no more than nine hours of downtown per year.
9. Growing Your Business
Before April 26, 2011 Google Apps users could have up to 50 accounts for free. This Spring Google announced that the limit would now be capped at 10 users for new customers. This rule does not affect those organizations who signed up for Google Apps before April 26th, 2011. If you are new to Google Apps and plan on growing your business beyond ten people, you should upgrade to Google Apps for Business.
The Google in the Enterprise weekly newsletter helps professionals get the most out of Google Docs, Google Apps, Chrome, Chrome OS, and all the other Google products used in business environments.
You need Apps for Business
The standard version of Google Apps is just fine for families, recreational groups and students. If you are running a serious business on Google Apps, you need Google Apps for Business.
If you aren't sure, you can always sign up for a 30 day free trial and downgrade if you aren't happy with the extra benefits of the paid version. If you aren't ready to make a full year commitment, try the recently released flexible subscription plan for the fee of $5/user/month.
10 ways to screw up your spreadsheet design
By Susan Harkins | June 23, 2011, 8:25 AM PDT
Wrong references, missing values, and invalid data aren't the only things that will ruin a spreadsheet. The development process starts before you do a thing, while you're planning the design. These types of mistakes are worse than bugs because you can't troubleshoot them. All you can do is start over. Here are 10 mistakes to avoid early in the process, when you're still in the decision-making phase.
1: That sheet has a million rows and I'm going to fill them all!
An Excel 2007 sheet suggests that you can have up to a million rows of data — but you really can't. If you have that much data, you need more power than Excel has to offer. Consider a new strategy, such as using SQL Server Express. Excel simply can't handle that much data even if it gives the impression that it can.
2: I use Excel as my database
"Hi! I'm working on a database project and I'm using Excel." Um… not with my help, you're not. An Excel sheet and a database table may look similar. Excel displays data in rows and columns, but that's as close as an Excel sheet and a database table get. If you must use an Excel workbook to store data in database-like fashion, think in terms of a flat file database (which repeats values from record to record). If you need a relational database system, use Access or SQL Server. Having multiple sheets doesn't give a workbook relational capabilities. You'll just break your heart trying to use Excel that way.
3: I know a few blank cells won't matter
Empty cells aren't wrong, but they can interfere with the way some functions work. For instance, the AVERAGE() function evaluates the value 0 and an empty cell differently. In addition, many features interpret a blank cell as the end of your data. For these reasons, avoid a design that accommodates blank cells when possible. If empty cells are valid, define those values within the context of the tools and functions you'll be using, so you can avoid unexpected errors and bad data.
4: I always start at A1
Many developers anchor their spreadsheets at A1 — it's a habit. That means summarizing functions and expressions are at the bottom or the right of all the data. In a small sheet, it doesn't matter, but a large sheet is another story. Users will waste a lot of time scrolling between the data and summary values. You can build a custom view or show users how to use [F5], but there's a more efficient alternative. Leave a few blank rows at the top and a few blank columns to the left of the data range. That way, you can insert summarizing functions in the first screen the users see. Those top blank rows are also a good spot for advanced filter criteria.
5: I put as much as possible in each cell
An Excel sheet isn't a trash compactor. The more data you put into a single cell, the fewer opportunities you'll have to use and extract the data you need. Instead, atomize! Within the context of designing a spreadsheet, atomize means to break down your data into the smallest possible elements. For instance, if you're storing names, split the first and last names into two columns instead of one. If you store the names in firstname lastname format, you can't sort by last name. If you think the easy solution to that dilemma is to use lastname firstname format, you might get a surprise later on — someone is sure to ask for that type by first names. Always break your data into the smallest reasonable pieces. You can concatenate values later, but it's difficult to reverse-engineer data.
6: I set all my sheets to manual to speed things up
By default, Excel automatically recalculates formulas when a dependent cell changes. In a poorly designed or large workbook, all that calculating can slow things down. A common reaction to a slow workbook is to set the calculation mode to manual. The sheet will then recalculate only when you explicitly tell it to by pressing [F9]. There's an unseen consequence to this madness, though: Eventually, you will refer to a value that hasn't been updated. Manual calculation isn't bad; it just isn't the right fix for a slow workbook.
7: I did it myself!
This is one of those tips that won't benefit the folks who need it the most — they won't recognize themselves. Most of us (and I include myself in this group) don't have all the necessary skills to build from scratch every spreadsheet we need. We're not stupid. We just lack a particular skill set. When you don't feel quite up to the task, rely on someone else. It's okay to start with a prebuilt template and make changes to meet your needs. Your end product will be more dependable and you'll save time.
8: I love to jazz up my spreadsheets with WordArt
"Word on the street is, he uses WordArt. Amateur!" I don't understand why, but WordArt is definitely taboo. Professionals absolutely hate it. If you use it, no one will notice your efficient formulas or helpful macros. All they'll see is your snazzy WordArt headings. They'll shake their heads and call another developer. WordArt produces some interesting effects, but never use it in a professional application.
9: I put everything on Sheet1 so it's easy to find
By default, Excel provides three two-dimensional sheets, and you can add more. The inclination is to put everything on the first sheet and to ignore the rest. It's an extreme you should avoid. If you cram everything onto that first sheet, you'll end up with a mess that's hard to use. When designing sheets, think in terms of major functions or tasks. Everything doesn't have to fit on one screen — it's about function, not display. Each sheet's task should be specific and autonomous. Dedicated sheets are easy to use and maintain.
10: I distribute everything across a whole bunch of sheets
The opposite of #9 is using dozens of sheets, each containing just a small amount of data. This design mistake won't make data easier to find. In fact, the more sheets your users have to browse, the more difficult it will be to find what they need. And once you spread your data across too many sheets, mistakes start creeping in. You reference the wrong sheets, the wrong cells — it's difficult to keep track of all the pieces when they're spread out like that.
Update: Microsoft's cloud BPOS suite suffers outage again
By Juan Carlos Perez
June 22, 2011 06:50 PM ET
IDG News Service - Microsoft's BPOS (Business Productivity Online Suite) cloud-hosted communication and collaboration suite suffered an outage on Wednesday, the latest in a string of technical problems in recent months.
The problem apparently lasted for more than three hours and involved a networking hardware problem that affected customers in North America, according to updates posted by Microsoft on the Microsoft Online Twitter feed and by administrators in discussion forums.
BPOS, which includes Exchange Online and SharePoint Online, has been hit by various outages dating back to August of last year.
Microsoft has at different times acknowledged the problems and apologized for them, pledging to do better.
In a statement on Wednesday, the company said the problem started at 11 a.m. U.S. Eastern Time, and confirmed that "network equipment issues" in the data center were to blame.
"All services have been restored. During this incident, customers were updated via social media channels, as access to the Service Health Dashboard was impacted by this incident. We apologize for any inconvenience this has caused our customers," the statement reads.
However, as outages continue, the performance and reliability of BPOS fall further into question at a particularly bad time for Microsoft, which plans to launch BPOS' next version, Office 365, next week.
"Email downtime is always painful, particularly when email is in the cloud and the customer has limited or no options to fix it," said Gartner analyst Matt Cain.
However, using cloud applications involves a certain loss of control by IT departments over things like outages in the vendor's data center, he said.
"Customers have to understand that part of the cloud deal is accepting a certain uptime service-level agreement, in this case 99.9 percent, suffering through outages, and getting the contractually obligated payback the vendor committed to if the SLA [service-level agreement] is missed," Cain said.
Microsoft has very high expectations for Office 365, which will offer significant upgrades over BPOS and is designed to compete better against rival offerings like Google's Apps cloud-hosted collaboration and communication suite.
For example, the Office 365 applications are based on the 2010 editions of their on-premise versions, while the BPOS applications are based on the 2007 editions. In addition, Office 365 offers the option of having Microsoft Office applications, which BPOS lacks. Office 365 can have Office Web Apps or the stronger Office 2010 Professional Plus suite.
In discussion forum threads, BPOS administrators expressed frustration with the string of outages and skepticism about Microsoft's ability to provide reliable uptime for the upcoming Office 365.
Sunday, June 26, 2011
SINGAPORE: A wide range of unique, well-designed products that tap into mobile trends and have mass appeal.
That is how Sony Ericsson plans to stay on top of the Android smartphone market, said executives at the company's Global Media Conference on Wednesday.
The event also introduced several new Sony products that will be unveiled in the third quarter of the year, including two new Android-powered phones: The Xperia active and the Xperia ray. With this debut, Sony Ericsson will have launched a total of eight Xperia phones this year.
But even if consumers feel overwhelmed by the sheer variety of Android phones on Sony Ericsson's plate, it's all part of the plan to capture as large a share of the competitive Android smartphone market as possible.
"We've committed ourselves to moving forward with Android, which has gained immense popularity throughout the region," said Mr Matthew Lang, Sony Ericsson's corporate vice-president and head of the Asia-Pacific region. "We compete with a range of products that we believe offer the customer a great, great choice.
"I think we made the right choice producing a range of phones for consumers who want to use the Android platform."
Indeed, the two new phones announced on Wednesday will fill all new positions in the Sony Ericsson smartphone line-up.
The Xperia active, with its dust-proof, water-resistant design, aims to appeal to users with active lifestyles.
The Xperia ray, on the other hand, features a sleek and polished design not unlike the Xperia arc that debuted earlier in the year, but it sets itself apart by being a multimedia-optimised device targeted at the mid-range market.
The key to Sony Ericsson's product strategy is the way that they look at potential consumers, said Mr Steve Walker, Sony Ericsson's chief marketing officer. "We tend to look at consumers by behaviour more than any other demographic profile."
"The people we target are the people who live their lives online, which is actually an increasing part of the population," Mr Walker added, referring to users who spend more time connecting to the Internet and social networks through their mobile phones.
Mr Lang agreed, raising one example of how Sony Ericsson is targeting the social-media-savvy crowd. "We've got Facebook inside Xperia, which is a very, very deep adaptation of Facebook within Android, which gives all types of consumers the opportunity to really use social media the way they want to use it within their mobile phones," he said.
Moving forward, Sony Ericsson intends to push forward with the gaming potential first showed off in the Xperia PLAY, the first and so far only Playstation-certified smartphone. "We really see the emergence of people using their smartphones to enjoy themselves in a variety of ways and gaming is one of the biggest things we see that will take off," Mr Walker said. "That's why we introduced a product like Xperia PLAY, and you'll see more and more gaming capabilities coming into our portfolio.
"It's all about entertainment. Combining smartphones and communications and entertainment together, that's where we see the future going."
Jun 24, 2011
SINGAPORE: BlackBerry maker Research in Motion (RIM) is banking on Indonesia and other populous markets for growth in Asia, while it faces intensifying competition worldwide from rivals like the iPhone.
The Canadian firm had one of the most prominent stands at the CommunicAsia telecom fair that ended Friday in Singapore, where industry executives gather annually to check out new technology and seal deals.
"We are in a great spot. When I think about the (Asian) markets, I have a big smile on my face," RIM's regional managing director Gregory Wade told AFP at the expo.
Wade said BlackBerry currently leads the smartphone market in Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand.
Technology research firm IDC estimates that RIM shipped 1.5 million BlackBerry devices to Asia in the first quarter of this year and since 2004 has sold at least 8.5 million units in the region.
Asia accounted for 11 per cent of RIM's global shipments in the first quarter of 2011, compared to eight per cent for all of 2010, it said.
Wade said that as more consumers seek replacements for older handsets, there's ample room for further growth in the Asian smartphone sector.
"There is a huge adoption of technology, consumers are making that leapfrog," he said.
Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand have a combined population of 400 million, and Indonesians have a particular fondness for BlackBerry's instant-messaging function, which spares them from texting charges.
"If you look at the countries he (Wade) mentioned, those are good success stories for them despite the beating they are getting globally," said Byan Ma, an analyst with IDC.
"In Indonesia, everyone wants to have a BlackBerry."
Waterloo, Ontario-based RIM was once the frontrunner in the high-margin smartphone market when it introduced the first BlackBerry device in 1999, which integrated email into a handset in a secure and reliable way.
The gadget was an instant hit, especially with corporate users.
But now, according to technology research company Gartner, RIM ranked fourth in the smartphone market globally in the first quarter of 2011 with a 12.9 per cent share based on operating systems -- behind Google's Android, Nokia's Symbian and Apple's iOS.
At CommunicAsia, RIM showcased the Playbook, its answer to Apple's iconic iPad.
The Playbook, which boasts a seven-inch (17.8-centimeter) touchscreen, was released in April but the market's reaction has been mixed in RIM's key North American market.
RIM said it shipped about 500,000 Playbooks in the three months to May 28, and sales start this month in Asia.
Roberta Cozza, an analyst with Gartner, said the Playbook was a "solid device" but like the rest of the iPad challengers, it lacks a well-supported "ecosystem" of applications similar to Apple's.
"Even Android tablets are struggling to deliver value to the consumers," Cozza said.
Android, an operating system developed by Google, is the software of choice among several iPad challengers like Samsung, while RIM has its own proprietary software.
"All the vendors are focusing on the hardware features but this is not where the game is," Cozza said.
Jun 26, 2011
SINGAPORE - More virtual livestock looks set to be traded and petulant fowl hurled at targets as social gaming takes hold in the booming mobile phone market, industry experts say.
Social gaming, made popular by titles such as "Farmville" and "Angry Birds", was one of the closely followed topics at last week's CommunicAsia trade fair in Singapore, where telecom executives meet annually to check on new trends.
Internet-enabled smartphones as well as tablets are liberating social gamers from the physical confines of home and office, and more titles specifically designed for handheld devices are on their way.
Asia-Pacific smartphone sales are expected to reach 200 million a year by 2016, a third of all mobile phones sold in the region, according to telecom consultancy Ovum.
"At least 90 percent of gamers will be on mobile in the future," said Jeffrey Jiang, a director at Singapore-based Touch Dimensions, which develops games for various platforms.
He said his firm's clients now favour social games designed for mobile phones rather than personal computers or consoles such as the Xbox 360.
"When I started in the industry, all the projects are mostly PC, hardly any mobile. But now most of the projects that people ask from us is about mobile," he told AFP.
Jiang, whose firm creates games for mobile brands such as the iPhone, Android and Nokia, said light social gamers rather than hardcore videogame players would be the drivers of developer industry growth.
"The majority of the population are going to be casual gamers and casual gamers are not really that willing to play their games just on the PC...Everyone has mobile devices so it's the logical shift."
"Farmville", which enables players and their friends to turn themselves into rural folk ploughing fields and trading pigs and cows, is the most popular game on Facebook and has made its developer Zynga a fortune.
With Zynga preparing to offer its shares soon, The Wall Street Journal has quoted sources as saying the developer could be valued at US$7 billion to US$9 billion after making US$400 million in profit on approximately US$850 million in revenue last year.
More than 250 million people a month play Zynga games which also include "CityVille", "FrontierVille", "CafeWorld", "YoVille" and "Vampire Wars", according to the developer.
In "Angry Birds", developed by Finnish company Rovio, players catapult birds at enemy pigs which have stolen their eggs -- players post their scores and discuss the game on social media sites.
Social game developers make money by selling their games as paid applications on mobile platforms such as Apple's AppStore, with various upgrades available as users become more addicted.
Advertising space is also available within their virtual worlds.
David Ko, senior vice president for Zynga, said some 1.1 billion smartphones -- mobile devices with features such as video cameras and Internet capability -- are expected to be shipped worldwide in 2015, double this year's forecast.
This creates a "tremendous opportunity" to reach more players, he said.
Ko said gamers have pressed Zynga to devote more resources to mobile platforms, "so an important part of our strategy is making sure that we have mobile extensions of all of our IPs (intellectual properties) going forward."
Nokia, the world's leading mobile phone maker, said gamers were the biggest customers of its applications store Ovi.
At Apple's AppStore, mobile games are the best-selling items, filling nine out of the top 10 slots.
Even BlackBerry, a brand more synonymous with businessmen rather than the gaming fraternity, showcased the gaming capabilities of its first tablet model, the Playbook at CommunicAsia.
It set up four flat-screen television sets connected to Playbooks enabling players to compete in the racing game "Need for Speed".
Thomas Crampton, a Hong Kong-based media consultant, said the rise of the smartphone made social gaming viable.
"The connectiveness to the Internet is important because it gives you that social link and the social aspect of gaming is really going to be a huge driving factor," said Crampton, Asia-Pacific director of Ogilvy Public Relations' global social media team.
Friday, June 24, 2011
7-Eleven CEO Takes Seat on RILA Board
Business Focus - Jun 23,2011
DALLAS -- 7-Eleven Inc. CEO Joseph DePinto is joining the board of directors of the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA). He won his seat, along with fellow newcomer Louis D'Ambrosio, president and chief executive officer, Sears Holding Corp., during RILA's semi-annual meeting held this week in Washington, D.C.
"We are honored to welcome Joe and Lou to the RILA board. They join a highly engaged group of chief executives who provide RILA with invaluable strategic leadership and knowledge to help RILA deliver on behalf of the retail industry," RILA President Sandy Kennedy said. "Their experience and industry know-how will add to what is already a stellar board."
DePinto brings a wealth of experience with him to the board. He's been at the helm of locally headquartered 7-Eleven since 2005. Prior to that, he served as president of GameStop Corp. His resume also includes executive roles at PepsiCo Inc. and Thornton Oil Corp.
During the twice-a-year RILA board meetings, DePinto will meet with leaders from other retail giants -- including chief executives from Dollar General, Walgreen Co. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. -- to address issues affecting the retail industry.
7-Eleven is also making headlines today for partnering with Greyhound, making it easier for bus passengers in the Dallas area to purchase tickets to ride. Starting this week, passengers can reserve Greyhound tickets at Greyhound.com or by phone and complete their purchase with cash at participating 7-Eleven stores in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. The companies are testing this feature in the DFW area at more than 270 7-Eleven locations for the next three months.
"We believe this relationship with Greyhound offers many of our customers a valuable service," said Jesus Delgado-Jenkins, 7-Eleven's senior vice president of merchandising, marketing and logistics. "We continue to seek innovative ways to serve our guests and are looking forward to the potential growth of this type of service when we expand the program to our other stores in the U.S."
Realignment Draws Concerns Among 7-Eleven Franchisees
Business Focus - Jun 23,2011
DALLAS -- Three months into 7-Eleven Inc.'s realignment initiative, the National Coalition of Associations of 7-Eleven Franchisees (NCASEF) is raising some questions.
According to a notice posted on the association's website, everything will be run out of 7-Eleven corporate headquarters in Dallas as part of the company's efforts to streamline operations. Joe Galea, NCASEF executive vice chairman, acknowledged the idea makes sense; however, the move has drawn some concern about the accounting and merchandising sides of the plan.
In March, it was reported that the c-store chain was restructuring. Among other things, the plans call for closing all eight regional divisions in favor of creating 14 geographic zones; overhauling its merchandising and marketing command structure; reducing the number of corporate positions; and standardizing and centralizing merchandising policies.
At the time, Margaret Chabris, of 7-Eleven's public relations department, told CSNews Online that the retailer has been evolving over time. "7-Eleven Inc. has been transforming its business for the past several years to better serve our stores and our stores' guests. We have made significant progress in many areas and now are moving into the next phase that will better position our field operations team to work more closely with our stores. The changes we are making also will centralize support functions to create more effective and efficient programs and processes," she said.
"All of the changes that are taking place over the next few months are made to deliver convenience without compromise, to create a better experience for our store guests and provide them with the products they want and the quality and value they expect. While there will be some loss of positions as we consolidate field offices, we are adding new roles, creating new opportunities and inviting those whose jobs are affected to apply for these new positions."
Recently though, NCASEF gave voice to the concerns of its members. For example, Galea said licenses, which are renewed annually, were previously sent to local market offices and then passed along to franchisees. Under the realignment, the licenses will be sent to Dallas and franchisees are afraid they will be responsible for letting the company know when licenses are due, Galea wrote in his website post. "There is a feeling among store owners that, since [7-Eleven Inc.] headquarters is so far away, there needs to be a policy in place to ensure these licenses are being processed in a timely manner," he said.
The association also recommended that since the company is implementing changes, it should address a concern franchisees have had for years: mail. More specifically, the fact that mail for particular stores currently gets routed through headquarters before it's funneled to the stores. This can lead to problems, especially if the mail is timely in nature, Galea said. It would be more efficient if the reorganization included a plan for mail to go directly to individual stores, he added.
As far as merchandising concerns, Galea stated that consolidating all the buyers in Dallas will limit opportunities for new vendors to approach 7-Eleven corporate. "Merchandising is our key and our backbone, and we have always been very fortunate to have regional vendors that supply us with products we need," he wrote. "This opportunity needs to exist because, geographically, every store is not set up the same and many are out of delivery areas for [combined distribution centers]."
He suggested that franchise owners associations (FOA) contact local vendors, invite them to board meetings and work with them to try and get their items into the FOA member stores. The results of the test launches would then be sent to corporate headquarters, allowing the vendor the chance to become a recommended corporate vendor.
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
A study from a few years ago indicates swearing can boost team spirit. According to Professor Yehuda Baruch of the University of East Anglia, preventing workers from swearing could also have a negative impact on their team spirit.
Except in front of customers of course; in that case swearing will have a very different impact. And if the cursing is directed at another employee. And — okay, you get it. There are limits, and there are definitely situations where cursing is never appropriate. Like most things, the right time and place is everything.
Professor Baruch says:
"… our study suggested that, in many cases, taboo language serves the needs of people for developing and maintaining solidarity, and as a mechanism to cope with stress. Banning it could backfire. The challenge is to master the art of knowing when to turn a blind eye to communication that does not meet with their own standards."
If you're skeptical about allowing swearing where you work, you can still take advantage of the personal benefits. Researchers at Keele University studied how long college students could keep their hands in cold water. (Yep, those are your tuition dollars hard at work.) Participants were allowed to either repeat a curse word they chose or a non-swear word.
The students who swore lasted an average of 40 seconds longer than the students who did not.
"I would advise people, if they hurt themselves, to swear," said Keele's Richard Stephens. He speculates that brain circuits linked to emotions are involved, possibly stimulating the amygdala and triggering a fight-flight response that increases your heart rate and decreases your sensitivity to pain.
But you can take a (good thing?) too far: The more you swear, the less powerful the effect on pain reduction, since you become accustomed to swearing and the swear words lose their "emotional potency."
Lose the emotional content and a curse word is just like any other word, at least to you.
So let your staff swear — in appropriate circumstances, and especially when customers aren't around — and by all means let loose if you hurt yourself.
Just not too often.
Photo courtesy flickr user crosathorian, CC 2.0
Monday, June 13, 2011
*If you received this via email, click on the link at "Posted by ECGMA to ECBeez Blog" to view the blogpost"*
**This video has just been nominated for a Webby Award in the Animation category.** Please vote for us and help us win. webby.aol.com/media_types/online-film-and-video
This lively RSAnimate, adapted from Dan Pink's talk at the RSA, illustrates the hidden truths behind what really motivates us at home and in the workplace.
From Walmart to 7-Eleven, Retailers Respond to Post-Recession Reality
NATIONAL REPORT -- A post-recession nation is adapting to higher food and gasoline prices and a still-shaky employment picture by continuing many of the ultra-value-conscious shopping habits adopted during the Great Recession.
Using a Marietta, Ga., family with a six-figure income as an example, an article in today's USA Today pointed out that even relatively well-to-do consumers have little choice but to follow a new value-shopping mantra.
As a result, America's largest and most familiar retailers -- from Walmart to Target to 7-Eleven -- have been forced to bend to this new reality, according to the article.
The Whited family makes more than $100,000 per year, but shops together for groceries at Walmart once a week.
The paper quoted Jamie Whited, who is a mother of two young boys and vice president of client services at a software marketing company, as saying, "We used to shop wherever we wanted and throw whatever we wanted into the basket. Now, we're very conscious of where we shop and what we buy there."
However, the article points out that like a growing number of Americans, the Whiteds don't measure value only by price. They examine how much is actually in a container, factor in family preferences and still demand the kind of quality they used to get in pricier products. This new American shopper is changing the way retailers market and merchandise.
"It's a new game, with America's retailers and manufacturers trying to satisfy consumers on multiple levels," said James Russo, vice president of global consumer insights at The Nielsen Co. "There's a fundamental shift in consumer behavior, and retailers have had to adapt."
Russo, a member of the Convenience Store News Forecast Council, has described consumers as standing at the crossroads of recession and recovery. At the last Forecast Council meeting in December 2010, he noted that consumers have moved from a mindset that said, "I'll trade down even if it means sacrificing what I really want," to "I will weigh the costs/benefits of my spending." Seventy percent of consumers continue to "only buy when on sale," according to Nielsen research at the time.
Adding more credence to the reality of the "new reality," a May consumer survey by BIGresearch found that nearly 45 percent of consumers say they have become "more practical and realistic" in their purchases. That's an increase from 43 percent in May 2010 and up from 37 percent five years ago.
Nielsen figures show an increase in coupon usage as well. Before the recession, 22 percent of households reported using them. During the recession, the figure ballooned to 35 percent. Now, even with the recession supposedly over, an even higher 37 percent of consumers said they use them, Nielsen reports.
Russo told USA Today that "the stigma is gone," as higher-income shoppers clip coupons too.
Among retailers, even low-price-leader Walmart has had to refocus on value after an ill-fated attempt to court upscale shoppers with prettier stores and more fashion and electronics products. The Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer has gone back to cramming its aisles with bargain merchandise and increasing SKU count by 8,500.
The focus on value has also led to growth in private label. The Whiteds told USA Today that in November they decided to start economizing by substituting store-brand and value products for name brands. "We definitely prefer quality," Jamie Whited told the newspaper. "But if we can get quality at a cheaper price, we'll go for that."
Walmart has plenty of company among retailers hammering the value message -- even 7-Eleven.
Convenience Chain Gets Value Message
7-Eleven is hardly the only convenience store chain to start touting value, but in 1998 it created the 7-Select store brand. That line, which started with a handful of products, now tops 300 and more are coming, said Jesus Delgado-Jenkins, 7-Eleven's senior vice president of merchandising.
"Since the recession, consumers have been asking us for more value, and we've had to respond," Delgado-Jenkins told USA Today.
For example, a 2.5-ounce bag of Lay's potato chips sells for 99 cents to $1.29 at 7-Eleven stores. But the chain's 7-Select brand in a 2.5-ounce bag consistently sells for 89 cents.
7-Eleven is not limiting its value play to its own brands either. According to the article, a store near Southern Methodist University in Dallas was offering two 20-ounce Gatorades for $2. "It was a no-brainer," said one college student interviewed. "One bottle usually goes for $1.79."
The article pointed out four other retailers who are responding to the new reality:
• Target -- The Walmart rival is rolling out value and store brands for food and household products.
• Domino's. The pizza delivery chain is beating its familiar $10 pizza deals with a Monday through Wednesday offering of $7.99 for carryout pizzas.
• Jos. A. Bank Clothiers. For the first time in its 106-year history, the 500-unit apparel chain not only put its entire stock of suits on sale at half price, but also threw in a free suit with each one purchased. In other words, for $275, folks walked off with two suits.
• Seattle's Best. The value brand owned by Starbucks is growing at a double-digit pace. A bag of Seattle's Best coffee at the grocery store typically costs as much as $2 less than its big sister Starbucks brand.
Sunday, June 12, 2011
|Three biggest errors people make when investing in properties|
By Michael Tan
"You cannot make money buying properties in Malaysia!" exclaimed a relatively disgruntled investor from Singapore. It was a statement made when we made a visit to our neighboring country. We were in Singapore in collaboration with Malaysian Property Incorporated (MPI) to promote real estate investment in Malaysia.
We ended up having a meal with the gentleman and listening to his experience of investing in properties in Malaysia. To my surprise, he was an extremely well informed person with amicable knowledge of investments and had invested in other countries as well.
However, his ventures have had somewhat mixed results. Some turned out mediocre results, some incurred losses and some were profitable ventures. He concluded saying: "Nothing beats investing in your own country".
His story is not uncommon. I have had similar encounters with many foreign investors - both in Malaysia and abroad. After some research, I realised there were some fundamental errors that most investors made when they ventured into unknown territories or countries.
I would like to share three of the most common errors made by foreign (and even some local) investors.
1st common error: To FLIP or to KEEP?
The first common mistake most investors committed is to invest without figuring out who their target market is.
First things first. Are you investing to FLIP or to KEEP? What's flipping or keeping? Well, flipping is buying with the intention to sell with profit. Keeping is buying with the intention of profiting from renting the property out.
Properties for flipping are usually the ones with has the highest capital appreciation in the shortest amount of time. These are usually the landed properties.
Here's a simple formula to calculate capital returns:
The returns will be the total returns you would get. Assuming you achieved 30% returns in 3 years, the next thing you need to do is to divide that to determine your simple returns per year (as compared to compounded returns)
Properties for keeping are the ones that fetch rental returns higher than 6%. These are usually high-rise in nature.
Here's the formula for rental returns:
It is key that you decide what strategy to adopt before deciding what type of property to invest into. Also, it's crucial to estimate the returns of investment you desire and the timeline of which to exit. Having exit strategies prior to starting is critical to your success.
Knowing your strategy before investing is crucial. Assuming you are planning to flip, next question is, who is your target market?
2nd common error: Not getting to know the area well.
"I bought into an apartment in the city center (worth RM1.8mil (S$735,300) three years back and I couldn't sell it out till today!" claimed the Singaporean investor.
"Who were you planning to sell it to?" I asked then.
"Anyone la!" he replied.
If you go around with a strategy like that, you might end up including the super natural market as well! Look, if you don't know who you are going to sell or rent your properties out to, why buy it in the first place?
You should know your target market very well before even investing into real estate in the area. Understand what the market needs, and what it is lack of.
What I see most investors do is to trust the developer or the agents to do the research for them. Why would you trust someone else with hundreds of thousands of ringgit (if not millions) of your own money?! Even if they were right, you still need to verify it. Remember, regardless of whether the developer or agent is right or wrong, they make their money when they sell their properties to you, and their liability stops there!
My advice for both locals and foreigners investing in Malaysia is to make the effort to visit the places of interest for you over and over again. Study the market and get to know the locals before you finally make the decision to invest.
3rd common error: Not understanding the locals
How many of you would invest into a RM14.5mil condominium near the city center with the intention to rent? How many of you would invest RM10.5mil for 1,250 sq ft of retail space in a new retail mall in Dengkil?
While there may be some sane reasons to do so, majority would agree that you wouldn't do either one of the deals. Although the examples are extreme, the common errors people do in investment are obvious here.
Some investors lose money because of this error - not understanding the lifestyle of the locals. You should always study the lifestyle of the locals.
Allow me to give a couple of examples:
I once met an investor who focused only into FLIPPING properties. I asked him how he's able to consistently make returns of 50% to 70% in the market, regardless of whether it was an up market or a down market.
He shared with me that he only invests in properties of RM500k to RM700k. He focuses on the trends of the people buying in the area. In other words, he focuses on the lifestyle of homeowners and what they were seeking. He further shared: "I usually ask my working colleagues, around the age group of 30 to 40, where they would buy to stay. I take note of the areas and the type of properties they would buy, should they be able to afford properties within my investment range."
"I also keep track on the latest types of properties the developers are rolling out into the market. They usually have done their research before investing millions into marketing and developing such properties. Then I look into the areas and types and buy the best deal."
"I never guess. I always make sure that whatever I invest into, I am 99% sure that its going to give me at least 30% returns or more, before I even bother to go it. It's all in the research and it's all in the network. If you want to make money, must consistently be in the market la. There's no such thing as a good time, only a good buy!" he added with a smile.
So, if you want to make money investing to FLIP or to KEEP, does he's advice make good investment sense? Again, most of us fail to do any sort of research prior to investing into the properties. The key to successful investment is to gather enough good information from the marketplace and make the money in the difference.
In many of my talks that I give these days, I mention to people that while it can be a good time to make money in the market, invest wisely. Keep yourself grounded and stick to the fundamentals. The best way of losing money is when you start speculating in the market.
Last advise, always remember to focus on the bottom line. Define your entry and exit points, keep to your strategies and always focus on making money.
Abraham Lincoln (February 12, 1809 April 15, 1865) served as the 16th President of the United States from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. He successfully led his country through its greatest internal crisis, the American Civil War, preserving the Union and ending slavery.
Friday, June 10, 2011
And Dot Com was a comely woman, broad of shoulder and long of leg. Indeed, she was often called Amazon Dot Com.
And she said unto Abraham, her husband: "Why dost thou travel so far from town to town with thy goods when thou canst trade without ever leaving thy tent?"
And Abraham did look at her - as though she were several saddle bags short of a camel load - but simply said: "How, dear?"
And Dot replied: "I will place drums in all the towns and drums in between to send messages saying what you have for sale, and they will reply telling you who hath the best price.
And the sale can be made on the drums and delivery made by Uriah's Pony Stable (UPS)."
Abraham thought long and decided he would let Dot have her way with the drums And the drums rang out and were an immediate success. Abraham sold all the goods he had at the top price, without ever having to move from his tent.
To prevent neighbouring countries from overhearing what the drums were saying, Dot devised a system that only she and the drummers knew. It was called Must Send Drum Over Sound (MSDOS), and she also developed a language to transmit ideas and pictures - Hebrew To The People (HTTP)
But this success did arouse envy. A man named Maccabia did secrete himself inside Abraham's drum and began to siphon off some of Abraham's business. But he was soon discovered, arrested and prosecuted - for insider trading.
And the young men did take to Dot Com's trading as doth the greedy horsefly take to camel dung.
They were called Nomadic Ecclesiastical Rich Dominican Sybarites, or NERDS.
And lo, the land was so feverish with joy at the new riches and the deafening sound of drums that no one noticed that the real riches were going to that enterprising drum dealer, Brother William of Gates, who bought off every drum maker in the land.
And indeed did insist on drums to be made that would work only with Brother Gates' drumheads and drumsticks.
And Dot did say: "Oh, Abraham, what we have started is being taken over by others."
And Abraham looked out over the Bay of Ezekiel , or eBay as it came to be known. He said: "We need a name that reflects what we are."
And Dot replied: "Young Ambitious Hebrew Owner Operators." "YAHOO", said Abraham. And because it was Dot's idea, they named it YAHOO Dot Com.
Abraham's cousin, Joshua, being the young Gregarious Energetic Educated Kid (GEEK) that he was, soon started using Dot's drums to locate things around the countryside.
It soon became known as God's Own Official Guide to Locating Everything (GOOGLE).
And that is how it all began. So,........... now you know...............
Thursday, June 9, 2011
How to Overcome Startup Fears
Here are suggestions for getting past the mental traps that might be holding you back from starting your own business.
While many people dream about starting their own business, far fewer make it happen. Nearly two-thirds of American adults have thought about starting their own business, only about a third of Americans have actually taken the plunge, according to a 2009 FindLaw.com survey. Why? My experience as a management consultant has shown that irrational fears are one of the main factors holding them back.
The irony is that those who take responsibility to overcome these mental hurdles and start a business, often don't look back. Fear is short-lived and often replaced by an experience of empowerment and a commitment to success.
Are you afraid of taking the entrepreneurial leap? Here are a few of the false assumptions that are fueled by fear, along with tips for moving beyond what may be holding you back.
"If I find the right business, I will succeed." This assumes the winning formula of a business resides outside the skills and experience of the entrepreneur and inside the business products and systems. This mindset can lead to endless nitpicking over what is wrong with every business opportunity that pops up. An experienced entrepreneur thinks, "The business doesn't make me successful. I make the business successful." This more powerful truth can empower an entrepreneur to acknowledge the potential pitfalls then figure out ways to make it work.
"Being self-employed is unpredictable and I want a comfortable and normal life." While almost everyone likes stability and security, entrepreneurs accept and plan for inconsistency in the short term in exchange for a life and career they choose in the long run. Someone with "an employee mindset" is like someone who sits comfortably in the stands watching the big game wondering what it would be like to play. The business owner takes the field and plays all out.
"I'm afraid of the unknown." People who are afraid of owning their own business are terrified by the ambiguity that comes with it. Entrepreneurs don't like ambiguity either, but accept it as something temporary and fully expect the business to produce a more predictable result in near term.
"A business failure will kill me." Entrepreneurs don't like failure, but they typically won't put themselves in situations they won't survive. A seasoned entrepreneur understands what the worst-case scenario is, and crafts a "survival strategy" in case it happens. While entrepreneurs don't expect to fail, they will survive if they do.
"It's not the right time to start a business." Some people act as if the universe is comprised of two time periods -- the right time to start a business and the time the would-be entrepreneur is currently living in. A true entrepreneur declares now to be the right time and finds ways to make it work.
Ask yourself what one action you should be taking to bring you closer to my goals. Then, regardless of how large or small that action is, take it. Spend a day writing your business plan. If you want to start a consulting business, take on just one client.
The best advice for would-be entrepreneurs may have come from St. Francis of Assisi: "Start by doing what's necessary. Then do what's possible. And suddenly you are doing the impossible."
Joe Matthews has 20 years of experience in all aspects of franchising, including management roles with national chains such as Subway, Blimpie, Motophoto and The Entrepreneur's Source. He is co-author of Street Smart Franchising with Don Debolt and Deb Percival, from Entrepreneur Press. He is based in Litchfield, Conn.
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
Gulf states order Blackberry users to cover their phones in a tiny burqa
New laws in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates will require that every Blackberry user dress their phone a miniature burqa and face veil.
'The Blackberry burqa means that people can still use their phones,' said a Saudi government official, 'but the tiny niqab that covers the screen will stop them from reading emails or accessing the Internet.'
The introduction of the burqa is intended to conceal the Blackberry from unwanted attention. With the veil in place only a tiny slit remains revealing just the time and date, thus preserving its modesty.
'This is not about censorship or oppression,' said UAE telecommunications regulator Mohammed al-Ghanem, 'this is about preserving the essential purity of the Blackberry and protecting it from being corrupted.'
Some businessmen believe that making their phone wear a burqa can be very liberating. 'It's great,' said one, 'with the veil in place I am free to walk about with my Blackberry in public without the feeling that people are staring lustily at my multi-media application. It also covers my shame for not owning an iPhone.'
Some religious groups have welcomed the policy. 'If Allah had meant us to freely access the Internet He would have given us web browsers in our heads,' said a local imam, adding 'There is absolutely no mention of instant messaging in the Koran and at no point did Muhammad, or any of his eleven wives, ever say LOL, ROFL or PMSL.'
If the Blackberry burqa is successful it may spread to other countries. However, experts say that dressing your phone in a burqa could result in poor reception, especially in France and Belgium.
The British government has yet to declare an official line on phone burqas although Immigration Minister Damian Green said that to ban them would be 'very unBritish'. He went on to explain that, 'the British thing to do, as always, is to grumble and tut.'
The Saudi government have promised that anyone who refuses to dress their Blackberry in a burqa will face harsh punishment. 'I am not saying exactly what we will do,' said their Minister for Justice, 'but suffice to say that it isn't so easy to text with your toes.'
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Samsung Galaxy S2 Review
In a nutshell: The Samsung Galaxy S2 is Samsung's flagship phone for 2011 and is the first Samsung phone to be powered by a dual-core processor. The Galaxy S2 runs Android version 2.3 (Gingerbread) and has an incredible 4.3 inch Super AMOLED Plus touchscreen. Other highlights include 1080p Full HD video recording, an 8 megapixel still camera and a secondary front-facing camera for making video calls.
Best buy: *Free* from Mobiles.co.uk or Dialaphone.
Review: April 2011.
Back in June 2010 we reviewed the Samsung Galaxy S and proclaimed it the best phone on the market today. And the thing is, it probably still is the best phone on the market. Until now, because the best phone in the observable universe just got better!
You'd think that the best phone couldn't get much better, but Samsung have entered some kind of crazed accelerated development programme and have introduced loads of improvements over the original Galaxy S. The first thing you notice is the absolutely incredible screen. This has grown from a huge 4 inches to a mega-enormous 4.3 inches, matching the HTC Desire HD and making this the biggest screen on any phone. The poor old Apple iPhone 4 has just 3.5 inches of screen. But it's not just size that counts. The Galaxy S2 introduces a new technology called Super AMOLED Plus, which is eye-popping in its brightness and clarity. The Super AMOLED display of the original Galaxy S was leagues ahead of most smartphones, so to leap forward to yet another generation of display technology is mightily impressive. It's certainly a match for Apple's Retina display, even if the S2's resolution of 480 x 800 pixels isn't quite the highest.
The surface area of the phone has grown to cater for the enlarged screen, but the phone still rests in the hand nicely due to its incredible thinness. At just 8.5mm, it's the thinnest smartphone on the market (the iPhone 4 is a flabby 9.3mm). Below the screen you'll find a single home button flanked by two touch-sensitive buttons for Menu and Back. It's a minimalist design that gives you everything you need. At 116g the phone is pretty light for such a high-powered beasty, and that's thanks to the plastic construction. It lacks the high-end feel of a metallic case, but avoids the reception problems that have plagued the iPhone 4 and also to some extent the HTC Desire S. Something called Gorilla Glass is used to protect that all-important Super AMOLED Plus display.
The operating system is the latest version of Android - 2.3 (Gingerbread). Android is our top choice for smartphone OS, and global sales of Android phones seem to be overtaking iPhone quite decisively. The number of apps available has exceeded the 100,000 mark and is continuing to grow rapidly. Android 2.3 is combined here with a new version of Samsung's TouchWiz user interface - version 4.0. Along with various home screen customisations and Swype text input for faster typing on the QWERTY keyboard, this introduces a number of hubs into the user interface. The Social Hub, which we've seen on previous Samsung smartphones brings together contacts, calendar and email with Instant Messaging, facebook and twitter. Reader's Hub is a platform for ebooks and magazines, with access to over 2000 newspapers in 49 languages and featuring interactive features like page curling effects. Music Hub is a combined music player and Music Store - we'll have to see how that works out. Perhaps more interesting is the Games Hub where you can download premium HD games (and some free games) optimised for the S2's dual-core processor, Super AMOLED Plus screen and 3-axis accelerometer and gyroscope sensors. The phone also comes preloaded with social games - We Farm, Safari, We Rule, We City. Being an Android phone, the S2 comes with pre-installed with all things Google, including Google Maps 5.0, Gmail, YouTube, Google Calendar, Google Talk and Picasa integration.
The headline grabbing feature of the S2 is its dual-core processor. It isn't the first dual-core phone to be released (that was the LG Optimus 2X) but it's the most highly anticipated. Anyone who's experienced the instantaneous response of the single-core Galaxy S might question the need for a faster processor, but the 1.2GHz dual core processor opens up new possibilities in video - particularly the Full HD video recording capability and the enhanced gaming experience.
It's logical then to talk about the camera next. This has been dramatically improved, with an 8 megapixel sensor and an LED flash (which was incomprehensibly missing from the original Galaxy S.) The camera has plenty of features taken from Samsung's digital camera range, including autofocus, touch focus, face detection, smile shot and image stabilisation. As already mentioned, the video camera has been uprated so that it can now record at Full HD resolution - that's 1080p format. Only the LG Optimus 2X can match that, and the Samsung does a better job with a sharper, more detailed picture quality. A secondary front-facing video camera is available for making video calls. There's a pre-installed image and video editor too.
The media player brings a great deal of functionality to the table and is capable of playing DivX and XviD format movies. The Super AMOLED Plus screen and the dual-core processor are a match for any video you might want to watch. 5.1 virtual surround sound is also supported. There's also an FM radio with RDS for listening to music on the move. Naturally a 3.5mm headphone socket lets you plug in your choice of headphones, and you can also connect the phone to a Full HD TV via DLNA and play movies or even games on a big screen.
Another area where Samsung have taken a great leap forward is in internet connectivity. The Galaxy S2 has an uprated implementation of HSPA enabling downloads of up to 21 Mbps where a network supports it (3 have just rolled this out.) That's faster than home broadband! This really is a phone created by speed junkies. And when it comes to web browsing, the fast internet access combined with a crisp, large display, multi-touch zoom and the super-fast Android web browser with Flash support and BBC iPlayer compatibility make it top dog.
Signal strength and call quality are good too (hey, it's a phone as well?) and battery life is excellent. For a device with so many features, you'll probably be playing with it all day and night, but Samsung have recognised the need for a monster battery and have stepped up to the mark. The S2 has a 1650mAh battery, which is the largest we've seen as standard in any mobile. Amazingly it doesn't seem to add any great weight to the phone (have Samsung secretly captured an alien spacecraft and stolen their technology?) Nevertheless, as any smartphone user knows, overnight battery charging will be required for the first couple of months at least. Once the battery - and the user - have been properly conditioned, the battery may last 2-3 days. That's pretty good going.
We're totally in awe of the Samsung Galaxy S2. To our minds, this is without question the best phone on the market today. The only reason not to buy it is the cost. But as of June 2011, it's available for free on contract for around £30 per month, which is gallons less than the iPhone 4. There will be more dual-core phones released later in 2011, and the next iPhone of course. But if you want our opinion, you should choose the Galaxy S2 - you won't have any regrets.
Saturday, June 4, 2011
Friday, June 3, 2011
Giving my family a better chance — Narayan
May 18, 2011
MAY 18 — I am Narayan, aged 44, and an Australian today. I was Malaysian till last year. I moved to Australia in February, 2007. My family joined me in Australia in July, 2007.
My children are Australian and my wife is Malaysian... still holding on to a string of hope to maybe retire in Malaysia.
Why did I leave? Am I a "pengkhianat" (traitor)?
Let us examine it from my family's eyes.
Economy of the middle-class: In Malaysia as a senior manager in various private sector companies and even in a GLC at one time, I would be paying 30 per cent tax. In return, I could keep a reasonable home 45km out of the city, travel by public transport, have a maid, kids in suburban Sekolah Kebangsaan, need insurance to top up for medical costs, and go to a private hospital each time.
My workdays were 10-12 hours a day, plus/minus travel if I want the kids to go to a private school for the obvious reasons of not growing up with bad English and numeracy skills, not to forget low self-esteem, and my wife would need to work. If she was a stay-at-home mom and tutored the kids, we might overcome some of the issues above.
As an Oz middle-class family: My wife works three days a week as a part-time Montessori teacher, in total nine hours a week. My work hours are 8-10 hours a day. No maid, we do everything we need for our children and she generally takes them to school and comes back home.
I do occasional school trips and some of the extracurricular activities. I do my own garden. I get out a lot actually and enjoy nature a lot. So cooking, cleaning, gardening are not a chore, but rather, different activities that are simulating. My work days are not as stressed with less politics within the company. Do my job, go home, help the kids with homework etc. I even do volunteer community work.
I pay 40 per cent tax, which is returned in good schools, clean political system which has zero tolerance for corruption, good medical services.
I lost some things like a maid, and lower tax system, but have cheaper options of spending weekends and holidays with good parks. In fact, most cities in Australia are all like one long big garden, which is very soothing. You need to be here to notice the blood pressure dropping and other faculties rising.
My kids enjoy school; in fact, they dread holidays in general as schooling is holistic and they have special way of drawing parents in. For the taxes we pay, the returns are clear.
I would put it this way: If my kids did not graduate and bummed around, etc, it would not be because there is no opportunity. The system is fair, which brings me to working conditions.
There is a term called Aussie fair go. This is instituted at every level, where the very language people use are non discriminatory. All positions of power, be it in management or government take discrimination seriously.
Back to my days in GLC, well I even had kowtow to my office boy sometimes because he is from the "special race." Need I say more? Moreover corruption was rampant, it was obvious and it was even a wonder at that time I got sign offs for the project I was doing.
It is important whilst we do work for money, we also must derive satisfaction of working in a good environment and do good work, reap the rewards of the good work.
I worked 18 years before I left Malaysia, studied in some of the so-called premier institutions and supported my own education right up to MBA and other industry certifications. I know what an uphill battle this is and when observing resources being squandered rampantly, I see too much money, the people's money which should come back to help people who need it, being wasted.
A case in point, when the Johor floods displaced 30,000 people in 2006, the government took over six months to dispense a few hundred ringgit for each person. At the same very time, there was a floral festival in Putrajaya that cost the government RM1 million every week and went on for six months. Where is the priority?
When we in Australia had the Victorian bush fire and the recent Queensland fire, the action from the public and government was swift. Well if it wasn't, rest assured the Australians would have replaced the government at the very next opportunity.
Same thing with corruption. In Wentworthville, a councillor was booked for receiving A$200. He went to jail for six months and the entire council was impounded for six months until authorities were sure nobody else was on the take. They went through seven years' worth of books to ascertain veracity.
A couple months later, Morries Immea lost his job as premier of New South Wales, when the Wollongong council scandal surfaced. It was not the premier's fault but he had to take the blame as it was during his watch. The point is even though I have only been five years in this country, I am convinced my tax money and others like me is not squandered.
How can I put my family in a country that cannot care for flood victims? The tsunami was another case in point, what happened to the monies collected from the public? How many of the 25 people actually got houses? Has anyone visited Gemas or other Indian communities in rubber estates lately? Check it out. I cite this as it is something I know intimately.
I am sure it is no different in many parts of Malaysia for the Ibans, Senois, Kadazans, and Muruts. In general, the feeling is if you are not Malay, you have no chance. For the Chinese, there is enough private sector support. This may not be true but that is how the message has been driven down.
Any country that does not respect the underclass has a serious possible revolution on its hands.
So, there are many things I can say but this is enough. I have come to the point where even if I need to be a beggar it is better in Sydney than Kuala Lumpur.
Before someone goes accusing me of being a "pengkhianat", I have contributed by working on a naval project, been on the school alumni board, collected funds and helped across all races; everything a common man with reasonable resources can do to serve my family and community.
I also voted in every election since the age of 21 and encouraged everyone I knew to do the same.
So now I will continue the same actions here where I rate my family's chances are better. I truly wish Malaysians who stayed back to fight it out and build a better Malaysia all the best.
* We asked readers who have migrated to tell us in their own words why they left. This is one of the stories.
* Narayan reads The Malaysian Insider.
Why I left Malaysia — ES
May 18, 2011
MAY 18 — I've left Malaysia for about nine years now, and lived and worked in several countries such as Singapore, China and, now, Hong Kong.
The past and recent news reports on brain drain have pretty much summarised the reasons for leaving Malaysia except they were not accepted by our leaders. I'll just echo some of the findings by relating my personal experience.
Unable to get into local universities even with good academic results. Mine was a working-class family and my dad had to work extremely hard to save (barely) enough money to put me through a private college (whose quality could be questioned).
It was a twinning program with an American university. A large portion of our class (100 per cent non-Bumiputera) didn't end up going to the America for their final year to "twin" with the university because of financial difficulties. Those who did, like me, mostly have remained overseas.
I did return to work in Kuala Lumpur briefly. My salary was so pathetic I was constantly worried about having to work for 10-15 years before my dad's investment in my education could be recovered.
Lack of meritocracy
My first job was with a government-linked corporation. We were educated, but quite explicitly some management positions were only given to the Malays. On the other hand, and to be fair, many private companies selectively avoid hiring Malays because of a general perception that they are less competent compared to the other races. Neither the GLCs nor private firms were actively promoting or hiring the best without an implied policy based on skin colour.
Barriers to returning
Today, after over a decade of working, I've established my finances, and started up a family in Hong Kong. Returning to Malaysia is not impossible but many barriers lie ahead.
My wife is Korean. We have heard of horror stories about the difficulty of foreign spouses not being able to get permanent residence/citizenship in Malaysia despite years of residency.
Our son was born in Korea. When we approached the Malaysian consulate to register him, we were told we would have to wait up to a year to get a reply. A year to register a child with an uncertain outcome? Something is very wrong.
At the same time, a friend's construction company doesn't seem to have any problem getting his Indonesian workers ICs with speedy approvals.
If it's so difficult to register our son, will he be able to get into a local school? What about quality of education? If I have to take a pay-cut (easily 60 per cent) to return to the country, I'd need to be reassured that quality education can be obtained cheaply (or at 60 per cent discount too).
It's not very encouraging to learn from the news and ranking of Malaysian public universities that have been on the decline year after year. Will I want to return to the country and repeat the same history my dad went through to put his son to college?
Lack of economic focus
Years ago, this was manufacturing. What about now? What has happened to MSC and the various corridors? What's our niche? What sectors can overseas Malaysian go back to? Banking? Biotech? Agriculture? Oil and gas? All I hear thousands of miles away in the past few years is some sexual allegations about Anwar Ibrahim.
Lack of positive publicity and encouragement
Every time when we return to Malaysia for holidays or when we meet Malaysians outside of the country (getting very often these days), we are asked not to return by friends, relatives and strangers.
Some even asked us how to get out of the country! Imagine having your foreign spouse hearing all these negative comments about your own country... not to mention, it's getting easier to meet your friends and relatives outside of the country than in Malaysia.
* We asked readers who have migrated to tell us in their own words why they left. This is one of the stories.
* ES reads The Malaysian Insider.
May 19, 2011
MAY 19 — I would like to tell you first-hand why I am thinking of migrating in the future:
The salary base of Malaysian employees are low.
I am a trainee for a foreign bank and urban poor as I earn less than RM3,000 a month; compared to my counterparts who are currently working overseas (merely as a waiter/ barista), their weekly salary is equivalent to what I earn in a month.
The living cost is getting higher.
As you know, petrol price for RON97 just increased 20 sen, with the increase of this and the fuel surcharge by AirAsia, it's a wonder how we can survive! Housing price is increasing, buying books at the local book store costs a fortune, transportation fee is getting higher, food and drinks are getting more expensive! Everything is going up, and nothing is going down. Buying a car or a house/ condo/ flat right now is suicide for me and many Malaysians, no doubt.
The injustice in the country.
With the many issues and injustice that are published (or not) in newspaper/Internet/mass media (for e.g. the Anwar trial, Teoh Beng Hock's death and the recent Sarawak election), I would like to opt to have my children and my children's children grow up in a place where nothing of this sort happens, where they know the difference between right and wrong, to learn and have known the importance of freedom of speech, and not to have their human rights violated.
Decline of university/education ranking in Malaysia.
I graduated from a local university and to be honest, the level of fresh graduates is appalling, as the majority of them (80-90 per cent) can't even communicate efficiently in English, let alone form a simple sentence.
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to find out the reasons why, but I digress, however, this is one of the many reasons that drives me to further my studies overseas in the future, while migrating there at the same time.
Not to mention, I do not want my children to be subjected in an education system where Math and Science are not taught in English and where "literature" books like Interlok are approved.
Word-of-mouth from friends and relatives who have migrated.
According to my friends and relatives who have migrated and are scattered all over the world now (eg. UK, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and Singapore), they have never regretted or looked back on the decision they made. Some of them have already settled down and have a family there. Once, I asked whether they would come back and work for Malaysia/ the government, the answer I got was a simple: "Hell no!"
These are the top five reasons that I have come up with for now, which I think would suffice, but the primary reason is that I don't feel safe, physically (as the country's crime rate in KL is one of the highest, where police/ ambulance/ public services are in a sad state), mentally (brain drain in Malaysia is happening as we speak, my creativity would be at risk), spiritually (as seen in the recent Al-Kitab incidents), and financially (as I would forgo the second best alternative by staying in the country, whereas I can use my time and resources to work overseas, thus earning extra and being happy without such pressures.
* We asked readers to tell us why they migrated... or are even thinking of migrating. This is one of the stories.