Business

Business
4:51 pm
Mon October 22, 2012

Would You Use Your Smartphone Like a Credit Card? This Company Hopes So

The Isis mobile payment system launched today in Austin. Short range radio communication between a phone and the pictured terminal allows for cashless transactions.
Mark Dewey for KUT News

It sounds like the setup to a joke: “AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile walk into a bar …”

But it’s no laughing matter. Despite the fact that each company devotes itself almost entirely to beating the other two in the highly-competitive mobile market, the three companies have created a new “mobile payment” venture – Isis – that launched today in Austin.

Mobile payments, also called  “digital wallets,” allow purchasers to buy products and services using a phone-based app at the point of sale, instead of with credit cards, cash, or checks.

Merchants that accept Isis payments are a mix of big-box retailers, fast food restaurants, department stores, and local merchants.

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Economy
2:22 pm
Fri October 19, 2012

Texas Drops to 6.8 Percent Unemployment; Austin at 5.3 Percent

Unemployment rates in Austin and Texas alike continue to fall.
flickr.com/sarahbelle1

The unemployment rate in Texas saw its biggest one-month drop in nearly two decades in September.

Statewide, the jobless rate fell from 7.1 percent in August to 6.8 percent in September. That was the result of an additional 21,000 jobs.

Here in Austin, the unemployment rate fell from 5.9 percent to 5.3 percent. That rate doesn’t account for seasonal changes in employment. Still, Texas Workforce Commission spokesperson Lisa Givens says the Austin area added 3,000 jobs last month, largely in fields including education, health services and government jobs.

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Business
4:29 pm
Thu October 18, 2012

AMD Confirms Plans to Lay Off 15 Percent of Workforce

The southwest Austin campus of AMD. The chipmaker said today they plan to lay off 15 percent of its workforce worldwide.
http://bit.ly/Qv3vtb

Computer chipmaker AMD announced this afternoon that it’s laying off 15 percent of its workforce. 

AMD is based in Silicon Valley, but employs about 25,000 people at its southwest Austin campus. The company says poor earnings and falling sales have forced cost-cutting measures.  

Analysts say AMD has suffered from an overall slowdown in computer sales as consumers have switched to tablets and smartphones—the same trend that has hurt Austin-based Dell.  Hans Mosesmann is an investment analyst specializing in semiconductors. He says that while AMD is slimming down today to be smaller and more flexible, the company may soon be hiring again.

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Media
8:48 am
Thu October 18, 2012

'Newsweek' Kills Its Print Edition

Say goodbye.
Karen Bleier AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu October 18, 2012 7:40 am

Saying that "we have reached a tipping point at which we can most efficiently and effectively reach our readers in all-digital format," editor Tina Brown announced this morning that Newsweek's Dec. 31 issue will be its last print edition.

Going forward, she said:

"Newsweek will expand its rapidly growing tablet and online presence, as well as its successful global partnerships and events business.

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Business
2:53 pm
Thu October 11, 2012

Is Austin a Tech Center or a Tech Colony?

There's gold in them (silicon) hills: Out-of-state companies like Facebook and Apple use Austin as a colony, but we don't seem to mind.

Almost every day we hear about out-of-town tech companies opening branch offices in Austin.  

What does that mean? Could the next Facebook, Google, or Apple start and grow in Austin? Will Austin even be the next Silicon Valley? Or are we a "tech colony," a place where global companies can find a ready supply of highly-trained tech workers who will work for less than workers in California or New York?

Salaries are lower here, even for tech specialist in high demand, and although Austin is often billed as a "lower cost of living" area, it may not seem that way to those facing high (and rising) rent, home prices, and property taxes.

In Silicon Valley, researcher and writer Vivek Wadhwa studies competitiveness as an academic discipline.  He says he’s pessimistic about the tech future of many U.S. cities and regions, but not Austin. He says Austin has done everything right and should continue to grow. More than advantages like Texas' favorable tax climate, the stream of patents spinning out of UT, or ample investment capital, he says it’s the human capital that gives Austin an advantage.  

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Business
8:59 am
Thu October 11, 2012

Austin Social Startup Acquired by California Company

A view of Lithium's current look for online communities.
Lithium Technologies

It's no secret that social media sites like Facebook and Twitter have changed the way companies interact with their consumers.

Corporations and small businesses alike need to have a plan for handling customer interactions via the internet  – at least that's what one Austin startup believes. And a big technology company is buying into the idea.

Lithium Technologies, a California-based company, announced it acquired Austin startup Social Dynamx this week.

Social Dynamx was founded last year by a group of Austin software industry experts as the “industry’s first purpose-built social customer care platform.” That's a fancy way of saying Social Dynamx’s technology assists companies in monitoring conversations via social media sites in order to respond fittingly to customers' comments or complaints.

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Business
2:31 pm
Tue October 9, 2012

Commissioners Approve Tax Break to Lure Company to Austin

Travis County has joined the city and the state in offering economic incentives to HID Global.
Jillian Schantz Patrick for KUT News

Travis County Commissioners voted four to one this morning in favor of providing economic incentives to HID Global. The company makes ID cards and key-card readers.

HID Global is looking at building a manufacturing and distribution center in Northeast Austin. It would create more than 270 jobs over 10 years. In return, the county would give the company at least a 40 percent discount on county taxes over that time.

County Commissioner Ron Davis represents the area including Northeast Austin.

“I just think it’s overall a big deal all across the community and I think it’s a win, win, win, win, win, win-type situation for all of us," said Davis. 

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Economy
9:47 am
Tue October 9, 2012

Risks Of Global Economic Slowdown Are 'Alarmingly High,' IMF Warns

In China's Anhui province, a worker unloads steel bars at a factory. A slowdown in China and other major nations threatens to pull the global economy into recession, the International Monetary Fund warns.
AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Tue October 9, 2012 8:10 am

Saying that the global economic recovery "has suffered new setbacks, and uncertainty weighs heavily on the outlook," the International Monetary Fund today warned that the probability of "recession in advanced economies and a serious slowdown in emerging market and developing economies" next year have gone up.

The fund said its research indicates the risk of those things occurring in 2013 "has risen to about 17 percent, up from about 4 percent in April 2012."

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Business
10:08 am
Fri October 5, 2012

Labor Secretary Says Talk Of Fudged Jobless Numbers Is Insulting

Labor Secretary Hilda Solis.
Kevork Djansezian Getty Images

Originally published on Fri October 5, 2012 9:19 am

The news that the nation's jobless rate fell to 7.8 percent in September from 8.1 percent in August immediately led some of President Obama's critics to charge the the books had been cooked to help his reelection campaign.

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Economy
8:24 am
Fri October 5, 2012

National Unemployment Rate Drops, Austin's Employed May Be Seeing Raises

Austin may be getting some raises soon.
http://www.flickr.com/niwru/

The national unemployment rate decreased to 7.8 percent in September. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. added 114,00 jobs last month. This means the number of unemployed in the U.S. is now 12.1 million. It's the first time this year that unemployment has fallen below 8 percent.

So what does this mean for Austin? As KUT News reported last month, Austin added 5,900 jobs in August, and local unemployment dropped to 5.9 percent, well below the national average.

But what about the already employed in Austin? According to staffing agency Robert Half International, technology professionals are expected to salary increases of about 5.3 percent. Administrative staff may see salaries rise by 3.5 percent. And accounting and finance salaries could jump 3.3 percent.

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Economy
3:42 pm
Thu October 4, 2012

Friday's Jobs Report Is Campaign's Next Key Moment, Here's What To Expect

The welcome sign at a job fair earlier this year in Washington, D.C.
Chip Somodevilla Getty Images

Originally published on Thu October 4, 2012 1:16 pm

With the first presidential debate now behind us, what's the next big item on the campaign calendar?

It's Friday's 8:30 a.m. ET release from the Bureau of Labor Statistics about the September unemployment rate and how many jobs were added to payrolls last month.

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Business
8:52 am
Thu October 4, 2012

Gaming Studio Bethesda Issues an Austin Battlecry

“Dishonored,” pictured above, is one of Bethesda’s newest titles.
Bethesda Softworks

Bethesda Softworks has announced plans to open a second gaming development studio in Austin – Battlecry Studios.

Battlecry will be headed up by long-time producer Rich Vogel, who best known for his work with gaming developer BioWare. Vogel left Bioware in July during BioWare’s second round of layoffs at the company.

During Vogel’s tenure at BioWare he worked on hits like “Star Wars: The Old Republic,” “Ultima Online”and “Star Wars Galaxies,” but it is unclear what he will be working on first with Battlecry.

President of Bethesda  Softworks Vlatko Andonov said in a statement that he is looking “forward to working with [Vogel] on a new exciting project.”

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Business
8:28 am
Tue October 2, 2012

Women Erased From IKEA's Saudi Catalog; Company Apologizes

She's gone: One example of how women disappeared from IKEA's catalog. In the U.S. version, she's standing at a sink. In the Saudi version, she's missing.
IKEA

Originally published on Tue October 2, 2012 7:54 am

Click through Swedish furniture giant IKEA's U.S. (online here) and Saudi (online here) catalogs.

You'll find all the same stuff.

But you won't find women in the Saudi catalog.

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Business
1:05 pm
Sat September 29, 2012

What's Behind Dell's Shopping Spree

Dell is primarily known for manufacturing desktop and laptop computers, but recent acquisitions are diversifying its services.
flickr.com/dellphotos

In an widely-circulated blog post titled "Hardware is Dead," investment banker Jay Goldberg shocked the tech world by describing what he discovered in a tiny stall inside a Chinese electronics market. In a room full of vendors hawking computers and parts, Goldberg found an Android tablet computer – essentially a non-Apple iPad – for only $45.

Speaking with KUT News, Goldberg says he was surprised by the device's high quality and low price. "I would consider it a device that anyone in the U.S. would be comfortable using," he says. "It was a seven-inch device. It ran the latest version of Android. It was WiFi only, it had a nice screen, and a very snappy processor, so it responded to your commands, quickly."

That’s what Dell is up against, trying to make money, in a ruthlessly competitive global market, by manufacturing desktop computers, laptops, tablets, and servers. Dell's stock price shows its struggle, dropping from more than $40 per share in 2005 to around $10.

At Dell headquarters, spokesman Jess Blackburn says the nature of Dell’s business has changed, and the company is undergoing a transformation.  "Our strategy, which we have been particularly focused on, is taking Dell from more of a hardware company to a full service, comprehensive solutions provider."

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Business
11:06 am
Fri September 28, 2012

Apple Is 'Extremely Sorry' For Its Much-Maligned Maps, CEO Tim Cook Says

Will it take you where you want to go? A new iPhone 5 and Apple's new mapping software.
Beck Diefenbach Reuters /Landov

Originally published on Fri September 28, 2012 9:46 am

How much of a "public relations disaster" has Apple's new mapping software been?

Big enough that the famously proud company has apologized — and suggested that users can turn to arch rival Google Maps instead.

In a message "to our customers" posted this morning, CEO Tim Cook says:

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Business
8:21 am
Tue September 25, 2012

Study: Women Workers Are Still Shortchanged

Women workers in Austin earn a some $7,500 less annually than their male counterparts, according to a new study.
Flickr user Victor1558, bit.ly/ReAJxO

An examination of the latest Census data shows a gender-based wage gap is affecting a majority of women around the United States.

The analysis conducted by the National Partnership for Women & Families is the first ever analysis of data separated by U.S. congressional districts.

The study shows that in 97 percent of the nation’s congressional districts, the median pay for women is less than the median pay for men by 23 cents. Women of color seem to experience an even greater disparity: African American women are paid 64 cents and Latinas are paid 55 cents for every dollar paid to white, Non-Hispanic men.

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Business
1:19 pm
Mon September 24, 2012

More Than 5 Million New iPhones Sold in Debut Weekend

Hazem Sayed exits the Apple store on Fifth Avenue after purchasing his new iPhone 5.
Don Emmert AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Tue September 25, 2012 2:50 pm

Apple sold more than 5 million iPhones this weekend, the company said in a press release. That surpasses the initial sales of the previous version.

As Bloomberg news reports, demand for the new phone quickly exceeded the initial supply, but some analysts expected bigger sales.

They report:

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Business
1:25 pm
Sat September 22, 2012

Is Austin’s Apple Maps Experience an Epic Fail?

KUT News eyes two errors in this Apple map of downtown Austin. But despite some hiccups, Austin errors aren't as ubiquitous as they are in several other cities.
twitter.com/rdmurphy

Computing giant Apple has released the newest iteration of its mind-bogglingly popular iPhone. But Apple continues to grab headlines for a less-PR friendly reason: reaction to its new maps program, which replaces Google Maps on the iPhone 5 and in Apple’s latest operating system update.

A complete failure.” “Epic fail.” “Things can only get better.”

Criticism is pouring in on several fronts. While Apple’s maps are lauded for their graphic beauty, including a breathtaking 3D “Flyover” feature, the app is being criticized for receiving a rollout before being fully cooked. Its satellite graphics appear bubbly and distorted in several instances. Directions and details have been ubiquitously downgraded in some areas. And a big dealbreaker for iPhone users in many major cities is Maps’ lack of built-in public transit schedules and directions, which Google Maps has.

But so far, Austin seems to have been spared the worst of the brunt.

Austin’s Apple Maps experience seems to be relatively smooth compared to those in other cities. For starters, it’s rendered in 3D, while many other cities aren’t. Chris Carter, an Austin-based Apple independent developer, says "the 3D technology that they're using actually generates the 3D models from multiple angles of satellite images."

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Business
5:38 pm
Fri September 21, 2012

Coke Workers in Fort Worth Can Union Bid

Had a unionization vote passed in Fort Worth, it would have been the Coca-Cola's company's first union shop in the South.
flickr.com/huffstutterrobertl

Yesterday, Coca-Cola workers in Fort Worth rejected an offer to unionize at their bottling plant.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports that the vote, which failed 215 to 191, would have made the bottling plant the first corporately-owned Coke plant in the south to unionize.

In that respect, the fact that the vote failed may be less surprising than the fact it made it that far in the first place. (The Star-Telegram notes that the vote represented the second attempt to join the Teamsters in as many years.)

As a “right to work” state, Texas has a low amount of union activity. And like most states around the country, the strongest unionization occurs in the public sector – making the scene in Fort Worth all the more surprising.

“I always tell people we don’t have unions in the Unites States,” says Dan Hamermesh, professor of economics at the University of Texas at Austin. “And in the private sector nationwide, we don’t. Eight percent are unionized nationwide. In Texas it’s way below that … but my guess is four percent in the private sector here in Texas. So it’s a very non-union state.”

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Business
4:52 pm
Thu September 20, 2012

Are American Airlines Pilots Staging a 'Sickout?'

American jets at Chicago O'Hare International Airport. The Dallas=based company has canceled hundreds of flights this week.
flickr.com/matt_hintsa

American Airlines has one canceled arrival at Austin Bergstrom International Airport this evening. While that may not sound like much – at least not to anyone booked on that flight – it may be symptomatic of a broader problem for Dallas-based American Airlines.

Against the backdrop of a labor struggle, American has seen some 300 flights canceled this week, as according to reports, pilots are calling in sick.

According to CBS News,

American has seen an increase in flight cancelations since early this month, when a federal bankruptcy judge allowed the company to impose new pay and work rules on pilots. The pilots had rejected the company's last contract offer in August.

Those new work rules increase the amount of flying hours on pilots, and allow American to operate more flights through partner airlines instead of American flight crews, according to CNNMoney.

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