Archive for July, 2010

Can BlackBerry retool to compete with iPhone, Android?

With the iPhone grabbing most of the attention lately, and the Android coming in second, the BlackBerry seems to be getting left out of all the buzz.

But, writes AJC reporter Tammy Joyner, don’t count it out just yet. It’s still No. 1 in market share, with 35 percent, and will be coming out with a new version.

Still, Blackberry has lost market share while the others are gaining, and some of its base — businesses — are starting to pull away, Joyner writes.

What do you think the future holds? Can BlackBerry retool and compete? Or has time passed it by? Will you give it a look in the future?

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Power Breakfast: Sea Island to change owner, teacher layoffs, governor’s race, BlackBerry, BP, iPhone

Sea Island, the posh but debt-riddled Georgia resort, may soon have a new owner, AJC staffers Scott Trubey and Dan Chapman write.

Bidders for the coastal resort, popular with generations of well-heeled Atlantans, have been narrowed to just a few out-of-state companies, their reporting reveals. The resort complex will likely be sold at a steep discount, three people in banking and real estate told Trubey and Chapman.

Sea Island’s next owner may jettison the company’s ill-timed efforts to transform the once-regional resort into a playground for the super-rich. The resort’s upscale lodges, golf courses and residential properties could be divvied up among two or more bidders.

“It’ll be different depending on who gets it and what their vision for the property is,” Russ Marane, executive director of the St. Simons Land Trust, told the reporters. “Nobody likes change, but change is a-coming.”

Bill Jones III, the Sea Island Co. scion and CEO, will likely be forced to …

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Are you satisfied with Apple’s fix?

Did Apple do right by you?

Apple says it will give free protective cases to deal with the iPhone 4’s signal problem, Associated Press is reporting.

Consumers who have already bought the phone and new buyers through Sept. 30 will all be eligible, AP writes. People who already purchased the $29 “Bumper” cases will be refunded.

Is this what you wanted?

Do you think Apple responded quickly enough? Or did it only get in high gear after Consumer Reports said it would not recommend the iPhone 4 without a fix.

What about the company’s reputation, which has been on the rise with previous iPhone models and the iPad? Will it suffer? How much and for how long?

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Power Breakfast: Newnan developer sues Wells Fargo, Kia, transit, Atlantic Station, BP, Goldman, financial reform

Newnan developer Stan Thomas has sued Wells Fargo Bank for $2.8 billion, claiming the bank failed to make good on a promise to lend him $500 million to continue projects across the country, AJC staffer Rachel Tobin Ramos reports.

The lawsuit is just one part of the legal disputes between Thomas and Wells Fargo. Also last month, Thomas sued Wells Fargo for defamation over a real estate listing that he claims was inaccurate regarding a San Antonio shopping center, Ramos reports.

And this week, Wells Fargo sued Thomas for defaulting on four loans for more than $119 million to develop shopping centers. The loans were made in 2007 and 2008 by Wells Fargo’s merger partner, Wachovia Bank.

The suits are fallout from the financial crisis that caught Thomas in the middle of billions of dollars worth of large projects nationwide that needed financing to continue, Ramos reports.

In the suit over the loans Thomas says were promised but never materialized, the developer claims …

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B of A charging some customers for printed monthly statements

Bank of America is charging some customers to receive their monthly statement in the mail, American Banker is reporting.

The $8.95 monthly fee is only applied to one type of account so far — and only in Georgia, American Banker writes.

But, the bank is planning to introduce the product in other markets as a replacement for its student checking account, which has no monthly fees when opened online, American Banker says.

B of A is not be the first U.S. bank to take an aggressive stance against paper statements, but it is the biggest to start charging for them, American Banker reports.

What do you think of this? Another example of nickel-and-diming by a financial institution? Or is it a justified way to raise revenue and cut costs?

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What will Apple do about iPhone 4?

Apple said it will hold a news conference Friday concerning its iPhone 4, which is facing mounting criticism over reception problems tied to its antenna design, the Wall Street Journal reports.

An Apple spokesman declined to give further details, but observers speculated that the company will offer a solution, the WSJ writes.

“Given the intense pressure and scrutiny Apple has come under on the problem with the iPhone 4, it’s going to be about some kind of fix or compensation for the owners of the phone,”  Ed Snyder, an analyst with Charter Equity Research, told the WSJ.

The company launched the phone last month to great fanfare as it boasted of a design that put the antenna in a stainless steel band around the phone’s frame, the WSJ writes. But even as the phone has continued to sell well at stores, it has been plagued with user complaints about dropped calls when the phone is held in a way that covers part of the antenna.

One potential fix — duct tape, according to

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Power Breakfast: Government targets airline fees, jobless rate, governor’s race, lottery, BP, iPhone

The federal government may do something about airline fees.

Amid growing complaints from a flying public fed up with airline add-on fees, Congress and the Department of Transportation are considering new rules that could change how airlines charge for baggage, blankets, drinks and just about everything else these days, AJC staffer Bob Keefe reports.

“Hardly a weekend goes by in my travels that I am not asked by passengers, ‘Aren’t you going to do something about these fees?’ ” U.S. Rep. James Oberstar, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said at a hearing Wednesday. “Well, we’ve started.”

A report released Wednesday by the Government Accountability Office indicated that the growing number of airline add-on fees can be confusing and misleading to consumers and ought to come with better disclosures, Keefe writes.

Airlines generated nearly $8 billion in revenues from baggage fees and reservation change and cancellation fees alone in the …

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Ga. jobless rate drops to 10% as discouraged workers give up search

Georgia’s unemployment rate dropped slightly to 10 percent in June as thousands of discouraged workers gave up their search after months of failing to find jobs, the state labor department said Thursday.

“Georgia’s job market is showing signs of renewed deterioration,” state Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond said in a statement.  “A sharp increase in the number of discouraged workers, rising long-term unemployment, increased new layoffs, and anemic job growth suggests that the fledgling economic recovery may be losing steam.”

The decline in the unemployment rate from 10.1 percent in May occurred largely because Georgia’s labor force shrunk by 17,953 in June, as long-term unemployed workers lost hope for finding new jobs, the labor department said. This is the largest monthly decline since May 2001.

The number of payroll jobs in June decreased two-tenths of a percentage point from May. And the number of jobs remains 1.3 percent less than in June 2009, the labor department …

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Can ‘artificial intelligence’ boost your finances?

Math whizzes with computers helped cause the financial crisis.

Now, they’re at it again — this time with a better outcome, we hope.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that more investors are turning to the science of artificial intelligence to make decisions.

With artificial intelligence, the WSJ says, programmers don’t just set up computers to make decisions in response to certain inputs. They try to get the systems to learn from the decisions — and adapt.

Essentially, the computer program analyzes huge chunks of data and makes predictions about the future, the WSJ reports.

Rebellion Research, for example, is a small New York hedge fund that has been using a machine-learning program it developed to invest in stocks. Run by a small team of twenty-something math whizzes, Rebellion has a solid track record, topping the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index since its 2007 launch, the WSJ says.

“It’s pretty clear that human beings aren’t improving,” Spencer Greenberg, 27-years-old …

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Power Breakfast: Atlanta scores clean jobs, multi-modal gets push, DeKalb cuts, senior living, BP, financial reform

There’s good news on the jobs and clean energy front.

Atlanta scored a renewable energy coup Tuesday when HydroPhi Technology Inc., a little-known hydrogen energy company with huge potential, said it will establish its headquarters, R&D center and factory here, AJC staffer Dan Chapman writes.

Eventually, that could create 300 jobs.

HydroPhi’s choice raises Georgia’s alternative-energy profile, Chapman writes. The state is well-known for turning trees into electricity. Suniva, in Norcross, is a respected solar cell producer. GE Energy invests millions of dollars annually in search of a solar, wind or nuclear Holy Grail.

But hydrogen — the most abundant element in the universe — remains largely a commercially unproven commodity, Chapman says. HydroPhi is betting it can reduce U.S. dependence on imported oil and gas, improve the environment and create jobs.

But, Chapman points out, plenty of questions remain: Is the technology feasible? Is it commercially applicable? …

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