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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Google’s ‘Don’t Be Evil’ Mantra is ‘Bullshit,’ Adobe Is Lazy: Apple’s Steve Jobs

Google’s ‘Don’t Be Evil’ Mantra is ‘Bullshit,’ Adobe Is Lazy: Apple’s Steve Jobs

After a big public announcement of the sort Apple had this week for the iPad CEO Steve Jobs often takes time in the day or two afterwards to have a Town Hall at One Infinite Loop, making himself available for questions from employees bold enough to stand up and take one right between the eyes.

This time, the big topics included Google and Adobe — no surprises there. Google recently unveiled its own Android-powered handset, the Nexus One, whose release Jan. 5 prompted Jobs to perhaps over-react by announcing on the same day that the iTunes store had served up three billion apps and that “… we see no signs of the competition catching up any time soon.” Apple’s billionth iPhone app download was greeted with great fanfare, but the two billionth not so much, so it felt a tad like Jobs was feeling some heat.

And the absence of Adobe Flash support on the iPhone for three years and counting, and now on the iPad, is either celebrated by users as a poke in the eye of one of the web’s most dextrous tools, or the most over-rated and overused crutch for decent design.

Jobs, characteristically, did not mince words as he spoke to the assembled, according to a person who was there who could not be named because this person is not authorized by Apple to speak with the press.
On Google: We did not enter the search business, Jobs said. They entered the phone business. Make no mistake they want to kill the iPhone. We won’t let them, he says. Someone else asks something on a different topic, but there’s no getting Jobs off this rant. I want to go back to that other question first and say one more thing, he says. This don’t be evil mantra: “It’s bullshit.” Audience roars.

About Adobe: They are lazy, Jobs says. They have all this potential to do interesting things but they just refuse to do it. They don’t do anything with the approaches that Apple is taking, like Carbon. Apple does not support Flash because it is so buggy, he says. Whenever a Mac crashes more often than not it’s because of Flash. No one will be using Flash, he says. The world is moving to HTML5.

The world, of course, includes Google, which last week in a somewhat more modest development bypassed Apple’s iPhone app blockade by unveiling an html5 version of Google Voice, which takes full advantage of mobile Safari on the iPhone. found it to be an impressive variation of the app Apple has neither approved nor officially rejected.

And it is, of course, in keeping with Google’s stated view (Android app marketplace notwithstanding) that the future is really in web-based applications and not in mobile apps at all. Web-based applications of the sort html5 makes much more viable.

So, great work rallying the troops, Steve — but be careful what you wish for.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Ready for a retirement transformation?

Ready for a retirement transformation?


NO doubt about it, 2009 was ne of the most economically challenging years because it has impacted the way Malaysians view their personal financial futures.

It may even trigger the Baby Boomers (aged 64 to 46) and Generation X’ers (aged 45 to 30) to relook their retirement planning processes to ensure financial sustainability for old age.

We will be confronted with situations of not having enough money for old age if our retirement savings suffer from continuous financial pressures like consumerism, inflation and financial market volatility.

And if this situation continues collectively as a nation, it can pose challenges for the Government in financing retirement, old age living and healthcare as we move towards an ageing society.

By 2020, Malaysia’s population above the age of 60 will increase to 3.2 million, or 9.5%. The United Nations, in its guidelines, classifies any nation with 10% of its population above the age of 60 as an aging nation.

Even if we are slightly under the 10% mark in 10 years’ time, we should be planning and implementing retirement policies now so that the future economic stresses of our ageing society are lessened.

Like the saying – “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” – year 2010 is the turning point of a new decade to implement new retirement strategies and policies, with collective effort required from the Government, employers and individuals.

The big picture

We must take a new approach to creating a progressive “silver society”. Retiring and growing old will no longer be synonymous with declining wealth and health if we start to take proactive steps while learning from developed countries.

The World Economic Forum September 2009 report on “Transforming Pensions and Healthcare in a Rapidly Ageing World: Opportunities and Collaborative Strategies” was published at a time when the economic crisis was stimulating new critical thinking about fundamental retirement and ageing challenges.

A concerted effort from government, private sectors and civil societies is essential to address an ageing population with declining labour force, and alarming healthcare and pension benefit costs, according to the report.

It highlights 11 strategic options to better cater for the changing retirement and healthcare expectations. While each strategic option could stand alone, their strength lies in their synergy and complementarity.

We shall focus on two of the 11 options which can be easily implemented, as the others require more effort and time.

Promote work for older cohorts

This implies shifting public policy, business practices and personal behaviour towards lifetime employability and active ageing. For many people, productive employment is now possible and desirable well into the 70s.
Life expectancy has increased by around two decades in the last half century, while retirement ages in many countries have changed very little.

Our mandatory retirement age in Malaysia is at 56 years for the private sector and 58 years for government employees. If life expectancy increases into the 70s, it will mean that, on average, a Malaysian will have almost 20 years of no work and no pay.

There are many positive implications of increasing the mandatory retirement age to, at least, 65. Baby boomers and generation X’ers have more years to earn money, more contributions to the Employees’ Provident Fund, more savings for investment opportunities and less years idling before passing on. Increasing the mandatory retirement age may also help to lessen the Government’s economic stress and overcome the declining labour market.

Financial education and planning advice

In the area of retirement, individuals are increasingly expected to take responsibility for the management of risks and determining their level of retirement income, and must bear the consequences of wrong or inappropriate decisions.

Financial education is the process by which individuals improve their understanding of insurance, investment, retirement saving products and concepts.

This enables them to become more aware of risks and opportunities, develop the skills and confidence they need to make informed choices, know where to go for help, and take effective action to ensure an adequate retirement fund.

Financially literate individuals are more likely to plan responsibly for their old age. However, policy-makers and financial providers must acknowledge that financial education alone may not be sufficient to overcome behavioral biases such as a tendency to procrastinate about retirement savings decisions.

“Every cloud has a silver lining” if we are successful in implementing some of these strategic options which are relevant to us in the next 10 years. I am sure there will be new opportunities to build a vibrant “silver economy” where wisdom and experience are valued as much as youth in our society.

Yip is a personal financial coach and also founder and CEO of Abacus for Money.

Categorization of the strategic options
Key Strategic Objectives Selected High-impact Strategic Options

Control and transform demand:

1. Promote work for older cohorts
For many people, better health in old age means productive employment is now possible and desirable well
into their 70s. Coordinated action to change public policy, business practices and personal behaviour can
promote lifetime employability and active aging.

2. Shift delivery of healthcare to a patient-centred system
Instead of a reactive focus on curing disease, patient-centred healthcare systems have a proactive focus on
maintaining good health. Such a fundamental reorientation of healthcare systems can help reduce the
incidence of preventable chronic diseases in old age.

Stimulate consumer empowerment

3. Promote wellness and enable healthy behaviours
Lifestyle factors and behavioural choices play a major role in determining the level of health in old age.
Making people aware of the health consequences of their choices must, however, be accompanied by creating physical and social environments that are conducive to healthy behaviours.

4. Provide financial education and planning advice
Financially literate individuals are more likely to plan responsibly for their old age. Improving awareness and
understanding of private pensions and retirement saving products enables people to make informed choices
and take effective action to ensure an adequate retirement income.

Strengthen funding and savings

5. Encourage higher levels of retirement savings
As public pensions increasingly offer lower replacement rates, retirees’ standards of living depend more on
their level of complementary private benefits. Incentives and opportunities need to be provided to expand
participation in, and increase contributions to, private pension systems.

6. Facilitate the conversion of property into retirement income
Reverse mortgages (or “lifetime mortgages”) allow elderly individuals to release equity in their home without
the need to sell the home and move to a smaller property. Borrowers can choose to receive the loan in the form of a lump sum, a series of payments or a lifetime annuity.

7. Stimulate micro-insurance and micropensions for the poor
As an extension of the microfinance movement, micropensions are a combination of micro-insurance and
microsavings products which have retirement income as their primary objective. They target poorer households, and the amounts contributed may be very small.

Optimize capital allocation

8. Enhance pension fund performance
Pension fund performance is one of the key drivers of retirement benefits in capital-funded pension systems.
It can be enhanced by measures to optimize the design of investment strategies and improve the quality of
pension funds’ governance and administrative efficiency.

Improve efficiency and cost effectiveness

9. Realign incentives of healthcare suppliers
Better health in old age is compromised by waste and inefficiency in healthcare systems that reward doctors
and hospitals for services provided rather than health outcomes achieved. Pay-for-performance measures
can improve efficiency by realigning incentives of healthcare providers.

10. Ensure that cross-border healthcare delivery benefits all stakeholders
Cross-border healthcare delivery includes patients travelling overseas for treatment and patients interacting
electronically with a healthcare provider in another country. It has the potential to be developed in ways that
can benefit patients and countries of all income levels.

Enhance risk management and risk sharing

11. Promote annuities markets and instruments to hedge longevity risk
Longevity risk is the uncertainty surrounding future improvements in mortality and life expectancy. Annuities
protect individuals against this risk. The functioning of annuity markets can be improved by further developing
longevity indexes and issuing longevity-indexed bonds.

Reigning in the banks

Reigning in the banks


There is little question that banks need to be reigned in and watched closely – it’s a question of how much

THE international banking community, after having brought the world to the brink of disaster and having wreaked havoc on the economies of the world, is now griping, really griping.

The gripes stem from efforts being made around the world to regulate bank activities, particularly by US President Barack Obama who announced a number of key measures to help ensure that there is no repeat of the crisis that threatened to crash the world.

This, extracted from Obama’s speech last week on the financial reforms, outlines succinctly the changes: “For while the financial system is far stronger today than it was one year ago, it’s still operating under the same rules that led to its near collapse. These are rules that allowed firms to act contrary to the interests of customers; to conceal their exposure to debt through complex financial dealings; to benefit from taxpayer-insured deposits while making speculative investments; and to take on risks so vast that they posed threats to the entire system.

“That’s why we are seeking reforms to protect consumers; we intend to close loopholes that allowed big financial firms to trade risky financial products like credit default swaps and other derivatives without oversight; to identify system-wide risks that could cause a meltdown; to strengthen capital and liquidity requirements to make the system more stable; and to ensure that the failure of any large firm does not take the entire economy down with it. Never again will the American taxpayer be held hostage by a bank that is ‘too big to fail’.”

It was quite clear to anyone who watched the situation closely the reasons for the financial crisis. Banks were taking too much risks with depositors money and were not doing the business of banking properly.
Bankers were being rewarded when huge risks they took resulted in extraordinary profits for them, paying themselves millions of ringgit in bonus. There were substantial incentives to take risk. The average bonus at Goldman Sachs for instance was almost US$500,000 a year!

This high figure is because of many staff who routinely earned millions of dollars a year. Goldman’s bonuses amounted to an incredible nearly 40% of revenue – revenue, not profit. And most of its revenues came from proprietary trading – trading for its own account. Because of their huge size, banks have tonnes of deposits.

Citibank’s deposits amount to over US$800bil. If they muscle into proprietary trading – and many of them have – they can move markets by using just a small portion of their deposits. These can be in the commodities, foreign exchange, derivatives or other markets.

In fact major investor/speculator/manipulator – depending on who you talk to – George Soros said at the World Economic Forum at Davos earlier this week that Obama did not go far enough to push banking reform. His arguments ran counter to those by bankers who predictably wanted less regulation. In situations like these, common sense should prevail.

And how about this one which Obama formulated with former Federal Reserve chief Paul Volcker: “It’s for these reasons that I’m proposing a simple and common-sense reform, which we’re calling the ‘Volcker Rule’ – after this tall guy behind me. Banks will no longer be allowed to own, invest, or sponsor hedge funds, private equity funds, or proprietary trading operations for their own profit, unrelated to serving their customers. If financial firms want to trade for profit, that’s something they’re free to do. Indeed, doing so – responsibly – is a good thing for the markets and the economy. But these firms should not be allowed to run these hedge funds and private equities funds while running a bank backed by the American people.”

Around the world people should stand up and fight against this attempt by banks to stop close supervision of their activities, arguing that this will crimp their profits and cut the creation of jobs. The world needs to be protected against bad banking.

We should take heart in this extract of that speech by Obama: “So if these folks want a fight, it’s a fight I’m ready to have. And my resolve is only strengthened when I see a return to old practices at some of the very firms fighting reform; and when I see soaring profits and obscene bonuses at some of the very firms claiming that they can’t lend more to small business, they can’t keep credit card rates low, they can’t pay a fee to refund taxpayers for the bailout without passing on the cost to shareholders or customers – that’s the claims they’re making. It’s exactly this kind of irresponsibility that makes clear reform is necessary.” Well said Obama.

Managing editor P. Gunasegaram says there is no harm done and every benefit derived, from requiring banks to be prudent. After all, are they not the custodians of our money?

A financial thriller

A financial thriller

Too Big to Fail: Inside the battle to save Wall Street
Author: Andrew Ross Sorkin
Publisher: Allen Lane

IN the 2008 recession, millions of Americans lost their homes and jobs. While banks developed a sudden aversion to lending, businesses suffered as a result of tight financing. Negative sentiments shrouded the financial markets, confidence evaporated, and stock prices nose dived at unprecedented rates.
Soon, what began as an American credit crisis became global, affecting businesses around the globe and causing millions to lose their jobs. But this is not the way things are supposed to be; at least not what modern economics wants them to be.

Notwithstanding the cyclical nature of business, modern economics and its faith in free markets and globalisation have promised growth and prosperity. Furthermore, in the modern economy, financial innovations ranging from conventional options and futures to the more exotic mortgage-backed securities are supposed to hedge away risks, enabling predictability and safeguarding value of investments.

Or, at least that was what we were told, what Alan Greenspan believed, and what his optimism led us into believing. But theory crashed with reality in 2007. Not only were financial derivatives one of the causes of the crash, markets were not as efficient as it was said to be because prices of assets did not reflect the looming danger behind subprime mortgages.

More importantly, globalisation made the world so interconnected that a plague in the American financial system quickly became a contagion, wiping out jobs, wealth and savings and sending millions of people from less developed countries into poverty.

For those affected by the crisis and wish to gain insights into the circle of culprits and the events that unfolded behind closed doors months prior to the melt down, Andrew Ross Sorkin’s Too Big to Fail enlightens as much as it piques.

It is a narrative masterpiece that reads like a novel. From one emergency to another, it takes us to stories, rumours, events, meetings and conversations between regulators and a cadre of investment brokers and bankers guilty of mismanaging their institutions.

Together they scrambled to rescue beleaguered, cash-strapped financial institutions in attempts to avoid a financial tsunami that was fast unravelling in early 2008 and which peaked in September 2008 with Lehman Brothers’s bankruptcy.

Though it spans over 550 pages, the book is highly readable as it focuses on people and their emotions, rather than on the technicalities related to the crisis. One may think of Warren Buffett as callous only to find him gentle and mild when approached as a potential saviour for the troubled Lehman Brothers.

The Wall Street crowd, however, is a different story. A glimpse into this small circle of elite who sit atop of the world of finance reveals that greed was not the only driving force behind the meltdown. These people, CEOs of Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Lehman Brothers, JP Morgan, Bear Sterns and Merrill Lynch, in their own endeavour to outshine each other, had driven their firms into engaging in increasingly riskier transactions.

In the end, it was jealousy, ego, greed and their relentless pursuits of short term profit that ruined them as well as their century-old financial institutions, once the epitome of high finance.

However, Sorkin did not so much criticise these CEOs as mock them. If they are, in real life, boastful and vainglorious as any billionaire would be, then their dialogues documented in this book made them look more like a bunch of rollicking teenagers railing about the enormity of a problem presented in front of them.

Much to my surprise, however, the job of rescuing the financial sector was saddled on the shoulders of a few, namely Hank Paulson, former Treasury Secretary under the Bush Administration, Tim Geithner, who succeeded Paulson as Treasury Secretary, and Ben Bernanke, the present Chairman of Federal Reserve.
While each of them was impressive in their own way as pragmatic regulators who displayed their feat of strength and leadership in the face of adversity, their former president, George W. Bush, may struck one as senile. On one occasion when Paulson and Bernanke explained to him the negative impact a failed AIG would have on savings and retirement of millions of Americans, the former president asked innocently: “AIG does all that?”

For all its exhaustive reporting, Too Big to Fail is a wonderful human drama but some may find it offers insufficient analysis as to why the crisis happened, what it means, how and where we go from here, and what next.

Furthermore, Sorkin, in his haste to go from one bad firm to another, often explains the financial concepts at play in just a few words. Hence, anybody interested in understanding mortgage-backed securities and credit default swaps and how they were responsible for the collapse will not find much help in this book.

That said, any criticism that the book has failed as an analytic source undermines Sorkin’s objective. As a financial reporter for New York Times and a columnist for Vanity Fair, Sorkin is there for the story, not the analysis. And the story, were it not all so frighteningly true, would have made a wondrous financial thriller.

1) Apple's tablet iPad faces opportunities, obstacles, 2) Analysts say iPad is bit too pricey, 3) Reverse Psychology: Chinese Knock-Off Firm to Sue Apple Over iPad

1) Apple's tablet iPad faces opportunities, obstacles

All eyes of the tech world were on Apple Wednesday as its CEO Steve Jobs showered his team's "latest creation" a tablet computer "iPad" in front of the palpitating industry, media and Apple fans.

Enjoying the new trendy device, many are also asking questions like: will iPad lead and set pace in the consumer electronics as iPod and iPhone did, and how far could it repackage the traditional media and become a benchmark of the industry.

Tablet computer is not a new idea. Companies including Apple, Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard have attempted to enter the market before with limited success due to technical bugs, bulky sizes and high prices.

The top challenge for Apple appears to be whether it could forge a new ground of consumer needs and wants, and fit it into people's daily life.

"iPad creates and defines an entirely new category of devices that will connect users with their apps and content in a much more intimate, intuitive and fun way than ever before," Jobs said.

How could Apple persuade consumers to purchase a hybrid device crossing between a laptop and a smartphone as they already have both? Jobs said the iPad is "so much more intimate than a laptop and so much more capable than a smartphone."

Jobs and his team hope to create an ultimate multimedia experience with iPad through browsing the web, reading and sending email, enjoying photos, watching videos, listening to music, playing games, reading e-books and much more.

A newspaper reading program from The New York Times and the new iBooks store appears to be one of the main selling points of iPad.

Last week, The New York Times announced that it planned to demand payment for access to its website, which has been linked to the new Apple tablet by analysts.

It was announced at the Wednesday event that consumers could purchase e-books from large publishers in the iBooks store including Penguin, HaperCollins, Simon&Schuster, Macmillan and Hachette Book Group.

Apple is reported to have been amassing digital reading material for iPad since last year. Jobs and his team have sent representatives to the Frankfurt Book Fair last October and have been in talks with News Corp, The New York Times Co., Conde Nast Publications (publisher of 18 magazines), HarperCollins Publishers and television networks including CBS and Disney, according to reports last week from the Wall Street Journal which have always had the first-hand information on the Cupertino-based firm.

Meanwhile, the publishing industry have been holding the highest expectations to the iPad, hoping the innovative device could repackage their business model and usher in a digital future with more profits.

For example, The Financial Times is looking at a system of paying for selected articles, whose publisher Pearson, also a major textbooks producer, has expressed its high expectations to Apple's tablet.

However, trials are also waiting for the new device as the market of electronic reading has been shared by many such as Amazon's Kindle, Sony's Reader and Barney and Noble's Nook. Amazon and Sony were reported to upgrade their products this year.

Analysts pointed out that a low-end e-reader priced at 200 dollars could do a great job in e-reading and Apple needs to create a special reading experience to beat these inevitable rivals.

"Amazon has done a great job of pioneering this functionality with the Kindle," Jobs said. "We are going to stand on their shoulders."


Starting at 499 dollars, the price tag of iPad looks not to become a problem and polls showed that iPad has got a ready and waiting base before it is shipped to stores in March.

According to a survey on more than 3,300 U.S. consumers conducted by ChangeWave Research earlier this month, 4 percent of the people polled said they were "very likely" to buy an Apple tablet when it is available, while another 14 percent said they were "somewhat likely" to purchase the device.

Meanwhile, some 37 percent of consumers interested in the product said they would like to spend over 700 dollars, and 75 percent of those said they would pay 500 dollars or more.

There are six models with the basic starting at 499 dollars and the most expensive at 829 dollars. An estimated sale of 5 million units in the first year has been seen in several projections.


Although iPad is widely expected to shake up the industry, some analysts said some factors could make the device become an epic failure.

The virtual keyboard could be inconvenient to use as consumers have been complaining about the keyboard of iPhone.

Apple gave the solution to this by creating an almost full-size soft keyboard and iPad can also connects to a keyboard dock with a full-size traditional keyboard. However, people have just seen what it looks like and then consumers have to play with it and then pass judgments. For another, if TV networks and media outlets are not willing (or too willing, resulting in high prices) to partner with Apple, the content could be a stunting factor for the success of iPad. According to reports from the Wall Street Journal, the company has faced resistance from television companies and cable-network providers over its plan to license just their best content rather than all of it.

Besides, costs of 3G connectivity and the price of data could be another problem. It is unknown whether consumers are willing to pay for an additional tablet data plan besides their iPhone bills.

So far, two data plans from AT&T in the U.S. were also announced with 14.99 dollars per month for 250 megabytes of data and 29.99 dollars for unlimited data usage.

2) Analysts say iPad is bit too pricey

Apple Inc's iPad tablet may take a year to turn into a "breakout" product with mass-market appeal as consumers wait for the price to drop below $499 and for more publishers to get on board, Piper Jaffray & Co said.

"It needs to be $300 to $400," said Gene Munster, an analyst with Piper Jaffray in Minneapolis. "It's an amazing device, but investors should have measured enthusiasm about how long it takes for something like this to gain traction."

Chief Executive Officer Steve Jobs introduced the iPad, pitching it as a "magical" new category of mobile devices between Apple's MacBook laptop and the iPhone. The iPad, with a 25-cm color touch screen, lets users play music, videos and games, check e-mail and surf the Web.

Apple will start selling three models in the US in March, priced between $499 and $699, that let users connect to the Internet over Wi-Fi networks. Three models that work with AT&T Inc's 3G wireless-phone network will go on sale in April for $629 to $829, with an additional $14.99 or $29.99 a month for a service plan.

Jobs also said the gadget will include software called iBooks for displaying electronic books, setting up a challenge to dedicated e-book readers from Sony Corp and Inc, which offers its Kindle starting at $259.

Munster said he expects Apple will sell 3 million to 4 million iPads in the first year. It may sell as many 8 million in 2011, which would add $4.6 billion to revenue, almost equivalent to Apple's current iPod business. Some of those gains will likely come at the expense of Apple's current 3.5-inch iPod Touch player.

Munster has recommended buying Apple stock since 2004, according to Bloomberg data. The shares have soared more than 12-fold in that period.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc's David Bailey predicts sales of as many as 6 million iPads this year, adding $3.9 billion in revenue and 99 cents a share in profit.

"Apple's announcement highlights what we think is the company's multi-year lead in mobile devices," Bailey said. "That said, we expect the near-term impact on the stock to be muted as investor sentiment had been bullish ahead of the event."

Apple already has signed agreements with five publishers, including Pearson Plc's Penguin and News Corp's HarperCollins, and intends to form alliances with others that will be able to sell their titles through the company's new iBookstore, Jobs said. Pricing for iBook titles hasn't yet been disclosed.

Source: China Daily  

3) Reverse Psychology: Chinese Knock-Off Firm to Sue Apple Over iPad

BY Kit EatonToday

iPad Clones
You'll need to put your best thinking cap on before tackling this one: That Chinese firm responsible for the iPhone-clone-esque tablet PC, that predated the iPad by several months, is crazy angry at Apple for copying them. And may sue.

Read that again. Get it? Okay, I'll try again: A company unashamedly rips-off Apple's iPhone design and look-and-feel and bolts it into a Windows tablet PC that's technically not too dissimilar from other similar tablet PCs. Apple then releases the iPad--a device that's been in the making, on and off, for over 20 years, and which builds on Apple's already wildly successful device designs (mostly the iPhone). The Chinese firm accuses Apple of copying it's design, and threatens to sue if Apple tries to sell iPads in China.

The news has surfaced over at Shanghaiist again, where they even have a quote from apparently incensed president of the Shenzen Great Long Brother Industrial company, Wu Xiaolong: "I was very angry and flabbergasted when I saw the news of the iPad presentation two days ago... It is certainly our design. They've stolen because we present our P88 to everyone six months ago at the IFA [in Berlin]."

Erm, Wu? It's not your design, mate. Your P88 looks just like a bloody big iPhone, running XP, and with an absolutely dreadful battery life. You may well have patented it in China (or at least you've begun that lengthy process) but I suspect Apple's patents are teeny bit more reliable on this front. And thank goodness you're admitting you "must follow the law," but I have to say that if you do go ahead and "sue them this Spring" if Apple sells iPads in China, then you're going to look like a right twit. If you'd come up with a totally original, compelling and consumer-exciting tablet all of your own design, then you'd probably not have anything to be so angry about. And we wouldn't have this intractable Gordian Knot of a who-designed-what-first patent problem to think about on a lazy Friday afternoon.

[Via Shanghaiist]

Thursday, January 28, 2010

1. Gaming injuries up, tree-climbing injuries down; 2. Son allegedly stabs dad over PlayStation tactics

1. Gaming injuries up, tree-climbing injuries down

It seems that the best way to keep your kids from getting hurt is to get them out of the house.

According to figures from the U.K. government, obtained by the Sun under the United Kingdom's Freedom of Information Act, the number of kids under 15 injured while climbing trees, skateboarding, and the like has fallen.

Does this mean that children have become more athletic or less accident-prone? Does it mean they have perfected their tree-climbing and skateboarding skills?

Please be careful with those thumbs, kids, or you'll have nothing with which to pick your nose.

No, it seems that they are simply staying indoors more, glued to their screens like rubberneckers to an overturned truck. You see, the same figures revealed that injuries from playing video games have gone up 60 percent since 2002.

Severely pained thumbs appear to be the main cause of kids' visits to emergency rooms in the United Kingdom. And one can only wonder if the U.K. hospital system has developed special methods for massaging thumbs so that they can retake their rightful place in the World of Warcraft.

Perhaps soon special video game physiotherapy clinics will open, with doctors in frightening headgear making kids feel at home, even when they are away from their own frightening games.
I think that it could be big business. Soon, perhaps, your health insurance might have special coverage for acts of Warcraft, just as it has for acts of God.

Chris Matyszczyk is an award-winning creative director who advises major corporations on content creation and marketing. He brings an irreverent, sarcastic, and sometimes ironic voice to the tech world. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET.

2. Son allegedly stabs dad over PlayStation tactics

Despite the fact that the country does occasionally win the World Cup, however, the Italian brand of soccer is more venal than Ben Kingsley in "Sexy Beast."

The teams intimidate, they're negative, they will stoop to violence, and they're infinitely less interesting to watch than Joaquin Phoenix on the "Late Show with David Letterman."
I mention this because I understand that the Italian love of soccer, even virtual soccer, has led to a domestic dispute of stunningly negative proportions.

FIFA 2009
FIFA 2009: The game that led to the father-son melee.

According to Reuters, a 16-year-old boy identified as Mario R was merrily engrossed in a game of FIFA 2009 on his PlayStation when his dad decided to offer a little advice.

The story doesn't recount whether Dad suggested the son play another two men across the back (a very Italian suggestion) or whether he merely figured that Mario's team needed to get a one goal lead and then cease to play soccer altogether--another very Italian characteristic.

Mario was not impressed with Dad's tactics. Perhaps he expressed himself forcefully. For Dad's reaction was to turn off the TV.

Mario seems to have felt this was provocation beyond the limits of filial loyalty. This was provocation not unlike Italian defender Marco Materazzi offering allegedly disgraceful slurs that caused France's Zinedine Zidane to lose his head--into Materazzi's chest--during the 2006 World Cup Final.

Mario reportedly wandered into the kitchen, grabbed a 15-inch knife, and stabbed his dad in the neck. He then supposedly wandered back into the kitchen, washed the knife, as his mom looked on, still unknowing, and put it down to dry. This was as clinical as the famous Italian defender, Claudio Gentile, who could chop your legs away and smile benignly as if he'd merely just fed you some cake.

Mom thought nothing of it, until her husband walked into the kitchen clutching his neck.
The son didn't go back to his PlayStation. He merely locked himself in his room and waited for the police to arrive.

His mom was quoted by Reuters as saying: "Mario is obsessed. He's forever playing on his PlayStation, and we bought him FIFA 2009 because we didn't want him playing violent games."
She sounds like a very wise woman. However, when it comes to soccer in Italy, wisdom can often be in very short supply.

by eg6motion January 25, 2010 12:48 PM PST
wow, you'd think they would see this kind of violence in their kid before this event.
Reply to this comment

by hightechfanboy January 25, 2010 12:48 PM PST
wow. at least people around me is lucky that they dont bother me or offer me advice of how to play when am playing Fifa 10 all day. I always have a spare pocket knive with me. lol.
Reply to this comment

by PvtPockets January 25, 2010 1:12 PM PST
wow. what a long article, the title says it all, no need for the narrative
Reply to this comment

by StryderSilverton January 25, 2010 1:14 PM PST
I think the narrative is quite telling... I would like to hear if the Dad survived though.
Reply to this comment

by airsumo January 25, 2010 3:37 PM PST
I feel bad for that family. However, these incidents will increase in frequency as long as people continue to turn a blind eye to the harmful effects of games like Cooking Mama.
Reply to this comment   5 More Comments:
by mjconver January 27, 2010 2:27 PM PST
And don't forget about rickets...
Reply to this comment

by sailinganfd January 27, 2010 2:47 PM PST
If i had kids I think I would be a "bad parent" with limits on screen time...
Reply to this comment

by sailinganfd January 27, 2010 2:47 PM PST
If i had kids I think I would be a "bad parent" with limits on screen time...
Reply to this comment

by Len Bullard January 27, 2010 3:06 PM PST
So in one article on this page, ONR says gamers make better soldiers. In this article, gamers get hurt more often sitting in a chair than climbing a tree. Something doesn't quite compute. :)
Reply to this comment

by mars729 January 27, 2010 4:42 PM PST
Its kind of sad that kids hardly play outside anymore. I personally will encourage my daughter to get outside as much as possible. I don't care if the risk of injury is a bit higher, being outside is more important. As for myself, I am a counter-trend. I try to get out into nature as much as possible. I hike, bicycle, kayak, snowshoe, x-c ski and wade as ways of getting around. I am also keen on birds and dragonflies but also observe anything else such as butterflies, bugs of all kinds, herps, mammals, lichens and more.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

From One Son To Another

From One Son To Another

January 26, 2010 - 11:21 pm
Hana AlbertsBio | Email
Hana R. Alberts is a reporter for Forbes in Hong Kong. 

Behind any successful businessman is another one.

In this case, Wen Yunsong, the son of Chinese premier Wen Jiabao, has the backing of Japan's fourth-richest man.

Softbank Corp founder and CEO Masayoshi Son is funneling money into Wen's private equity firm, New Horizon Capital, which boasts a reported $500 million under management. Son has a net worth of $5.6 billion. (See his billionaire profile and Forbes' calculations of Japan's 40 Richest.)

News yesterday out of China was that Son's Softbank and Singapore's state-run investment firm Temasek Holdings, both early investors in New Horizon Capital, are once again supporters, pouring money into its latest $1 billion fund. Their investment helps New Horizon get to $750 million, very close to its goal. It will invest  the money in companies about to go public.

Softbank, seller of the popular iPhone in Japan, also has big stakes in Yahoo! Japan,  Chinese e-commerce site Plus its venture capital spinoff China Softbank is investing in Chinese internet companies as well as Vietnamese online marketplace Peacesoft.

Steve Jobs' Frenemies

Steve Jobs' Frenemies

By Brian Caulfield, 01.26.10, 06:00 PM EST

Who is the Apple chief's biggest friend or foe? It depends what year it is.

BURLINGAME, CALIF. -- For Apple, there's always a boogeyman. First it was IBM. Then it was Microsoft. Later it became Intel. Today it's Microsoft--again. And, one day it may be Google. In the world of Apple, today's eternal foe is tomorrow's fast friend.

Apple ( AAPL - news - people ) has never been afraid to pick a fight with the big guy. The first foe? Big Blue. It's easy to forget now how powerful IBM ( IBM - news - people ) once was on the desktop. The company is still a major force in the server rooms of government agencies and businesses, but it doesn't have clout in the consumer market, which is Apple's focus. Thus, IBM's relationship with Apple has changed dramatically over the decades, from foe to friend.

After IBM, of course, there was Microsoft ( MSFT - news - people ). While Apple's elegant computers fused hardware and software, Microsoft split the two apart and prospered. Its MS-DOS became a standard, thanks to its use on IBM's PCs.

In Pictures: Steve Jobs' Frenemies:

It earned the ire of the Mac faithful, however, with Windows. The software took its cues from Apple's graphical user interface, to be sure. It's commercial success, however, was what made Microsoft truly hated.

Hence the gasps when Microsoft founder Bill Gates ultimately rode to Apple's rescue in 1997. Apple struck an alliance with Microsoft, which invested $150 million in the then struggling company and committed to releasing a new version of Microsoft Office for the Macintosh. When newly returned Apple Chief Steve Jobs unveiled the alliance to the Apple faithful at the Macworld Expo, Gates' visage hovered over the crowd on an enormous screen.

Rather than marking a capitulation, however, that moment marked Apple's rebirth. While Microsoft remains a fierce Apple rival, it's also one of Apple's most important software developers, thanks to the Office software it makes for the Mac.

Meanwhile, Apple had other targets. Semiconductor giant Intel ( INTC - news - people ) made a good choice, if only because of its size and marketing presence. Apple commercials portrayed Intel's processors as a snail and mocked Intel's bunny-suited employees with commercials portraying them--and their processors--as "toasted."

And then came another dramatic turnabout. Jobs in 2005 revealed that Apple's OS X software was leading a "secret double life" on Intel's processors as well as on IBM's PowerPC chips. Jobs, and Apple, quickly hustled over to Intel's processors, turning a foe into a close friend.

That, of course, leaves Apple's ultimate enemy: the PC. With Microsoft's investment in Apple gone, Apple is free to pick on Microsoft once more, with commercials mocking Microsoft's Vista software and urging PC users to switch to the Mac.

So how long will the war last? Probably only until Apple can find a bigger, more polarizing foe to motivate its faithful. One possible candidate: Google ( GOOG - news - people ). Apple and the search rival don't compete quite as fiercely as Apple and Microsoft--yet.

But they're getting there, with Google pushing a new operating system for netbooks and building its own smart phone software and Apple nibbling on the mobile advertising market.

Reader Comments

To be respectful -- among these awesome thinkers and wizards -- from a creative artist's perspective with my A Billion Bucks cd, GettyMovie dvds & books out there at Amazon ... I would have to say th [Read More]
Tags: macdonald bank, gettymovie, firstbank studios, macdonald studiosPosted by grantmacdonald | 01/26/10 09:22 PM EST

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Tags: CAM, TzPosted by Soksant | 01/26/10 08:59 PM EST

You make some interesting points, Mr. Caulfield, but you lost me when you wrote that "Bill Gates ultimately rode to Apple's rescue in 1997." A better description is that Jobs brokered a truce with Ga [Read More]
Posted by WindsorSmith | 01/26/10 08:14 PM EST

Two approaches to ‘Allah’ issue

Two approaches to ‘Allah’ issue

Articles in the Wall Street Journal by Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim show their contrasting approaches and political styles.

DATUK Seri Anwar Ibrahim has been on the ceramah trail the past couple of weeks. The last time he was this busy was when making his comeback as Permatang Pauh MP more than a year ago.

His sodomy trial starts next Tuesday and all this political activity is a sort of pre-trial campaign to reach out to as wide an audience as he can.

The Opposition Leader’s oratory at these ceramah have assumed a certain pattern.

Apart from providing his take on the forthcoming trial, his chief target has been Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, the man who stands in the way of his political ambitions.

The PKR leader has also been at pains to explain his party’s stand on the controversial “Allah” issue and at times, has come across as rather defensive especially when the audience is Malay and rural.

An overwhelming majority of Malay-Muslims are very uncomfortable with the High Court ruling in allowing the use of the word “Allah” in The Herald and Anwar has been grappling with the Malay-Muslim sentiment on the ground.

But his stand would go down well with the Western liberals who want to see Islam in a way convenient to them.

This came across quite clearly in the Wall Street Journal which published two articles yesterday on the issue – one by Najib and the other by Anwar.

Najib’s piece was titled, “Finding Unity in Diversity” while Anwar’s carried the heading, “Muslims have no Monopoly over ‘Allah’.”

The articles were quite a contrast, not only in content but in reflecting the priorities and political styles of the two men.

The Allah issue has become very political and at the same time very personal to the religious beliefs of the various communities.

Najib chose not to take the political argument. He pointed out that citizen action and spirit had prevailed in helping to maintain calm and peace following attacks on places of worship.

There is no denying Najib has been under a great deal of pressure over this issue and he admitted there are passionate views on many sides and that this was a complex issue that the Government was trying to resolve .

He spoke about the reform path that his administration would take and said Malaysia’s society and the economy could only be built on that which unites rather than which divides.

His message was not about blame or justification but about unity, building bridges and looking forward.

As he put it: “I am determined that the vandalism of the places of worship and arson at the Tabernacle (the church that suffered the most damage) and the powerful response from everyday Malaysians can be transformed into a moment from which we can learn.”

Anwar, in his article, offered a concerted argument why Muslim do not own the word Allah.

But the politician in Anwar dominated in his article and he pinned the blame for what had happened squarely on reckless politicians, the mainstream media and NGOs linked to Umno.

He accused these quarters of fermenting fear to divert attention from controversial court decisions and missing jet engines.

It was the written form of what he had been saying at many of his ceramah, a political attack on his chief nemesis Najib and the ruling coalition.

He went beyond the Allah issue and pronounced this country as going down the drain because of corruption, incompetence and religious extremism.

He said the vision of Malaysia as a peaceful and stable location was in peril.

Anwar, some fear, is about to launch a repeat what he had done back in 1998 when he came under siege for charges of corruption and sodomy.

He blamed Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad for his troubles and in his anger, he not only ran down the former Prime Minister but the system and the country on the international front.

Anwar, they say, should try to draw the line between his personal issues and his politics from that of the country’s interests.

There is no denying that race relations have been affected by what has happened. Malaysians of all races are concerned about the future.

Some are pessimistic, others more hopeful. But what everyone wants now are solutions rather than finger-pointing.

Everyone wants a peaceful and acceptable solution to the “Allah” issue and the politics of blame will not help.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Peril Of Executive Optimism In 2010

The Peril Of Executive Optimism In 2010
Andrew Ward, 01.25.10, 04:41 PM EST

It is likely to cost some CEOs their jobs.

In the past year the markets and confidence gyrated. Twelve months ago we all believed we were staring into the financial abyss. Since then consumer sentiment has come a long way. Even housing looks to have hit bottom and started heading toward recovery. Are the good times here again, or at least around the corner?

There are indeed green shoots poking their heads above the dirt, but anyone occupying a corner office should be aware of the dangers that lie ahead for someone in their position. When green shoots appear, especially after a barren spell like the one we've been through, expectations for recovery grow much faster than the recovery itself.

The mismatch between racing expectations and slower recovery can sow greater discontent than during the depths of the recession. People expect things to get back to their best quickly. But especially in terms of job and wage growth, a recovery can take many months longer to be felt on Main Street than on an already improving Wall Street.

As a result people start to feel very frustrated with those who are supposed to be leading the recovery, from government figures to the corporate heads. We are already seeing the end of President Obama's honeymoon, with his approval rating dropping from around 70% on inauguration day to below 50% a year later, according to the Gallup daily poll. Moreover, Obama's disapproval rating has risen from just over 10% at the inauguration to 44% today. Don't expect employers to avoid their share of that kind of mismatch-induced discontent.

In my research on the largest U.S. companies during and after the last major recession, in 1990 and '91, I found that more chief executives were fired in the nine months following the recession than during the nine-month recession itself. Another study, by Sheila Puffer of Northeastern University and Joseph Weintrop of Baruch College, found that CEO dismissals then were driven less by absolute performance than by performance relative to board expectations. What does that suggest about the months ahead? When times are tough and the economy is a deep trough, expectations stay low. Workers accept furloughs, pay cuts and hiring freezes, taking them in stride. As a recession bottoms out expectations remain low, and so when many companies this quarter reported earnings way down from last year, they were still better than analyst expectations. However, that sent the message that maybe things aren't as bad as we fear, that maybe the worst is over. Expectations can now rise--and they're beginning to rise quickly.

As expectations rise boards will quickly begin to expect profits to rise, too, not just to decline less than feared. Employees will expect the tide to turn over the next few quarters from laying off to hiring, from pay cuts to raises. Yet companies are unlikely to rebound as quickly as their boards and employees anticipate. Those green shoots are still tender and yet to bloom. Boards and employees will begin to grow disappointed and will hold to account whoever they consider responsible for their organization's performance. They will ratchet up the pressure for faster recovery. This is likely to lead to the dismissal of CEOs who are unable to temper rising expectations and hammer home a message of more cautious optimism.

Good times will be here again, but leaders need to set expectations, both for the speed of the recovery and also for its tone. They need to draw appropriate lessons from the boom and bust, that to some degree euphoria was built on an unsustainable model of debt-fueled consumption and expectations of never-ending growth. If consumers learn to temper their own behavior as incomes start to rise again, the good times won't feel quite as good as they did before, but the recovery should be more sustainable. That's to be hoped for--but expectations have to be managed or heads at the top will roll, in both business and politics.

Andrew Ward is a member of the faculty of the Management Department at Lehigh University. His most recent book is Firing Back: How Great Leaders Rebound After Career Disasters, co-authored with Jeffrey Sonnenfeld of Yale University.

See also: "Expect Heavy CEO Turnover Very Soon," by Nat Stoddard.

Analysts predict bold growth for Google Android

Analysts predict bold growth for Google Android
by Marguerite Reardon

Google's Android is expected to take the smartphone market by storm in the next few years, growing faster than all its competitors, according to an IDC report published Monday.

Android is expected to be the fastest growing wireless operating system from now until 2013, when the software will be the second most used smartphone operating system throughout the world, the report said.

Today, the Symbian operating system, used mostly on Nokia phones, dominates the smartphone operating system market worldwide. BlackBerry maker Research In Motion holds the No.2 spot currently, with Apple in the No.3 spot globally.

The numbers differ in the U.S. market where Symbian has very little market share. In the U.S., RIM is currently the top smartphone operating system provider, and Apple is in the No. 2 spot. Microsoft is in the third position with its Windows Mobile operating system.

But by 2013, Android is expected to grow much faster than all its competitors, IDC says. And it will knock out RIM as the No. 2 operating system provider globally and bump Apple from its second place position in the U.S.

The shift in market share comes as more device makers release phones using the Android operating system. A handful of new phones using Android from Motorola, HTC, and Samsung were announced in 2009, but in 2010 manufacturers are expected to increase the number of Android devices and ramp up sales. Motorola has said it's planning at least 10 new Android devices in the first half of 2010.

IDC analyst Stephen Drake said the sheer volume of devices that are expected to come out using the Android OS will catapult its growth. One of the big advantages Android has over other operating systems, such as RIM's or Apple's Mac OS, is that it can be used on hardware from a wide base of manufacturers. RIM and Apple only use their operating system on devices they make.

"While there are a lot of operating systems on the market, there are not a lot of opportunities for device manufacturers that don't own their own software," Drake said.

Microsoft's Windows Mobile also caters to this market. But Drake believes that Android's growth will outpace growth of Windows Mobile, because Android is free, open-source software, whereas Windows Mobile requires a licensing fee. For this reason, Drake believes that handset makers will focus more on Android.

Windows Mobile is still a popular mobile operating system, and it already has a large installed base. But growth is stalling as manufacturers and consumers wait for the next version of the operating system, Windows Mobile 7.0. That said, Drake doesn't believe that manufacturers will abandon Windows Mobile. But they will be adding more Android devices to their device mix. As an example, Drake said that HTC, the biggest handset maker using Windows Mobile, is looking more at Android, as is Motorola, LG, and Samsung.

"The story isn't great for Windows Mobile," he said. "If you look at news cycle for smartphones over the past year, where was Microsoft? They need a splash with Windows Mobile 7. And they need to produce a device with a 'wow factor,' something in the superphone range."

Marguerite Reardon has been a CNET News reporter since 2004, covering cell phone services, broadband, citywide Wi-Fi, the Net neutrality debate, as well as the ongoing consolidation of the phone companies. E-mail Maggie.

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Monday, January 25, 2010

Top 10 ways to get rid of Gen Yers in your office

GENERATION Y – a perpetual hot topic. How to attract them, retain them, put up with them? Or that one solution that tempts many but no one wants to say out loud: Get rid of them altogether, and save yourself a lot of headaches.

Much research has been done on Gen Yers and what makes them tick. Using those findings as a basis, let’s look at how to get rid of them.

1. Ban Facebook, Twitter and all other social media websites. While not a panacea for clearing your office of Gen Yers, this is a good place to start. A survey done by Deloitte shows that some teens consider lack of social networking at work a significant detriment in choosing a workplace.

2. Don’t let them work from home. Or anywhere that’s not the office. Gen Ys value and almost expect flexible schedules. Not letting them work from home – or anywhere other than the office – is a sure way to frustrate them.

3. Don’t tell them why their work matters, or how it will be used. Everyone appreciates knowing the value his work adds, especially Gen Y. One Gen Y in a focus group pointed out that they are constantly “looking for a sense of the bigger picture”.

4. Give them as much mundane and repetitive work as possible. Gen Yers believe they can learn quickly, take on significant responsibility and make major contributions far sooner than older generations think they can. Personal development is usually a high priority for them. Assigning them mundane work is therefore an irritant in both the short and long term, especially if you can combine it with No. 3 above.

5. Tell them off for not working 100% of the time in the office. Technological advances have broken down the disconnection between working hours and non-working hours. With round-the-clock email and demands for answers, many Gen Y knowledge workers feel they are effectively on call 24/7.

Consequently, they believe that they need to take more breaks throughout the day, often through video games, iPods or YouTube. Tell them that they’re not paid to play around during company time whenever you see them goofing off in the office – even if they worked till midnight last night.

6. Evaluate them on the number of hours they stay in the office a day, rather than the quality or quantity of work they produce. Combine this with No. 2 and No. 5 for extra impact.

7. Never praise them or thank them for putting in the extra effort. Gen Ys are willing to work hard but within reason. Asking them to put in time and/or effort they see as unreasonable and/or unnecessary is guaranteed to irritate them. Don’t forget you can rub some salt into the wound by giving them no praise or recognition whatsoever, or acting as if their extra effort was run of the mill.

8. Give them anything but transparency. Gen Y came of age in a world of layoffs and corporate scandals, fostering a belief that businesses in general value their own financial gains above everything else, and that business talk about the importance of people is largely insincere.

One Gen Y in a focus group commented: “We are looking to be loyal to an employer if that employer will be loyal to us, but we don‘t think business operates that way today.”

Utilise this scepticism by making promises you never deliver on or even address again. If they can even tell you made any, under the layers of fluff.

9. Tell them work-life balance is a fantasy only held by the ambitionless. One survey found that almost 90% of Gen Yers have either a primary focus on family, or they divide their focus between work and family. They favour family and personal time over the rewards that usually accompany increased job responsibility.

Now, this is a golden opportunity; pile on the hours, while telling them that eventually they’ll grow up and realise that they’ll have to prioritise their career just to make a living.

10. Use these phrases as often as possible: “Do it because I said so.” “That’s the way we’ve always done it around here.” “You have to pay your dues.” “You young people don’t understand working life.”

Gen Yers hate being disrespected. They have been raised to feel valuable and very positive about themselves…and to question authority. Send them the message that you expect them to respect you due to your higher rank alone.

Once you’ve successfully cleared all Gen Ys out of your office, and hopefully deterred any other potentials from applying, sit back and relax. You’ve managed to save yourself a lot of time, trouble and headaches, in the short term. In the long term, as the workforce ages and older generations retire, you may experience a problem.

The truth of the matter is that Gen Y is simply too large to ignore, both as workers and consumers. Companies that don’t figure out how to harness this growing resource are likely to find themselves at a distinct disadvantage, not only in the talent market, but in the broader market as well.

Effectively attracting, managing and retaining Gen Y certainly poses a challenge, especially while taking care to cater to the rest of your workforce. However, research has shown that all generations basically want and value the same things.

The difference is that priorities, expectations and behaviours may differ noticeably. With a little creative thinking, and an open mind from all employees, organisations can find solutions that appeal to all generations.

For instance, coaching and/or mentoring arrangements support Gen Yers’ desire to learn and develop, while giving older generations an opportunity to contribute and feel valued. Other programmes such as flexible work arrangements appeal to not just Gen Y, but also baby-boomers considering sabbaticals and Gen Xers who value flexitime and telecommuting.

The most important question to ask yourself is not “how should I manage Generation Y?” but rather, “how can I make my company a great place for all generations to work?”

BY Deloitte Insight - By LIM PHUI CHENG  - The writer is a consultant with Deloitte Malaysia’s human capital consulting practice.

A tighter rein on land transfers

A tighter rein on land transfers
Comment by ROGER TAN

There is a general sigh of relief with the Federal Court’s decision in favour of a landowner who was cheated of his property, overruling the decision in Adorna Properties which has wreaked havoc in land transactions and increased the number of land scams in the last nine years.

THE decision by the Federal Court last Thursday in Tan Ying Hong v Tan Sian San & 2 Ors to depart from its previous decision made in Adorna Properties Sdn Bhd v Boonsom Boonyanit 2000 has finally and correctly restored the principle of deferred indefeasibility in our Torrens system of registration after a gruelling wait of more than nine years.

For the benefit of the readers, let me first explain this principle in simple terms.

Under the Torrens system , the State will guarantee an indefeasible title to anyone whose name is registered on the register of titles.

This is enshrined in section 340(1) of the National Land Code, 1965 (“NLC”) which applies to West Malaysia.

However, sub-section 340(2) provides that a title or interest can still be defeasible if it is acquired, inter alia, by fraud, misrepresentation, forgery or through an insufficient or void instrument.

Sub-section 340(3) then goes on to say that if the immediate purchaser subsequently transfers the title or interest to a subsequent purchaser, the said title or interest is still liable to be set aside provided the subsequent purchaser is a purchaser in good faith (or bona fide) and for valuable consideration.

In other words, only the subsequent bona fide purchaser/transferee and not the immediate bona fide purchaser/transferee will get an indefeasible title created out of a defeasible title.

(Under the NLC, a purchaser is defined to include a bank taking a charge over the land.) To put it in another way, for example, A is the registered proprietor of the land.

B forges A’s signature and transfers the land to himself. B later sells and transfers the land to C. C, who has no knowledge of the forgery, will obtain an indefeasible title. Or if B forges A’s signature and transfers the land from A to C and C later transfers the land to D, then, D and not C, who has no knowledge of the forgery, will obtain an indefeasible title. C and D in the first and second examples are known as subsequent purchasers under s 340(3).

However, if the principle of immediate indefeasibility espoused in Adorna Properties applies, C will still get an indefeasible title if B forges A’s signature and transfers the land immediately from A to C without first having transferred to B himself.

That was exactly what happened in Adorna Properties.

An impostor of the genuine landowner, Boonsom Boonyanit, made a false statutory declaration that she had lost the original title to two pieces of lands in Penang, and successfully managed to obtain a certified copy of the title from the land office.

With that, the impostor registered the transfer of the lands to Adorna Properties Sdn. Bhd. (“Adorna”) for a sum of RM12mil.

A three-member bench led by Chief Justice Tun Eusoffe Chin held that Adorna had obtained a good title because the proviso in sub-section 340(3) would apply to sub-section 340(2) even though Adorna was an immediate bona fide purchaser.

As a result, Boonyanit lost everything as the forger had also disappeared with the money.

Despite two attempts made by Boonyanit’s family to have the decision reviewed by a separate panel of the Federal Court in 2001 and 2004, the Federal Court dismissed both applications on the ground that no grave injustice had occasioned.

It is, therefore, not surprising to hear Chief Justice Tun Zaki Azmi last Thursday describe the error committed by the Federal Court in Adorna Properties as “obvious and blatant”.

In delivering the main judgment of the apex court, Chief Judge of Malaya, Tan Sri Arifin Zakaria ruled that the Federal Court in Adorna Properties had misconstrued s 340 and came to the erroneous conclusion that the proviso appearing in sub-section 340(3) equally applied to sub-section 340(2).

With the latest decision, the law as respects indefeasibility of titles is now settled, and all the other judges must hereafter follow it conscientiously as the decision of this strong five-member bench has effectively overruled Adorna Properties.

In fact, it cannot be gainsaid that Adorna Properties has wreaked havoc in land transactions, and incidents of land scams have also increased in the last nine years. The police had even revealed before that the computerised land registration system in several states, including Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Johor, had been compromised by syndicates using “inside people” to forge land titles resulting in several registered proprietors and purchasers losing millions of ringgit.

The former Director of Bukit Aman Commercial Crimes Investigation Department Datuk Ramli Yusoff was quoted in 2007 as saying the modus operandi of these perpetrators was to declare that they had lost their land titles and then obtained replacement titles with the assistance of “inside people” before selling the land.

In Tan Ying Hong’s case, the forger, Tan Sian San, had forged the signature of the landowner Ying Hong to create a forged power of attorney in order to charge the land to RHB Bank as security for loans totalling RM300,000 granted to a third party, Cini Timber Industries Sdn Bhd.

It follows that the apex court held that the charge was invalid because as RHB Bank was an immediate purchaser under s 340(2), the proviso under s 340(3) did not apply.

Of course, had Sian San first transferred the land to himself and then charged it to RHB Bank, the latter would have been a subsequent purchaser entitled to the protection of the proviso in s 340(3) .

At this juncture, it must be stressed that the latest decision of the Federal Court does not mean that a landowner is now legally incapable of losing his land to a forger.

The decision only makes it more difficult now for these thieves and conmen to fraudulently transfer the lands.

We must, of course, not underestimate these criminals as it is not difficult from now on for a forger to transfer the property to himself or another person before transferring it to a subsequent bona fide purchaser in order to enjoy the benefit of the proviso in s 340(3).

This is all the more so if there is help from “inside people”. Take Tan Ying Hong’s case, for example.

I am just bewildered as to how the Pahang state government could have “mysteriously” alienated a nine-acre plot of land in Kuantan to Ying Hong in 1976 when he did not even know about the existence of the land until he received a demand letter from RHB Bank in 1985.

As the alienation has not been challenged, it appears that the flawed system has mysteriously enriched Ying Hong with a property which is now probably worth millions of ringgit.

It is apposite to note that in every land scam like in Adorna Properties, there are two victims involved – the genuine landowner and the bona fide purchaser.

As everyone is either a landowner or a purchaser or both, it is indeed a balancing act when deciding whose interest requires more protection and to what extent the landowner should be protected in the entire chain of dealings.

In doing so, it must be borne in mind that if protection is given solely and wholly to the landowner, then Malaysia may not be so conducive for property investments.

In this respect, countries which practise immediate indefeasibility such as Australia, New Zealand and Singapore have an assurance fund to compensate victims of land scams.

That said, as land is a State matter here, implementation of such a fund may not be so straightforward.

All in all, the latest decision now requires the purchasers, banks and their lawyers to be even more vigilant and diligent when conducting land searches and verifying the identities of the sellers before purchasing any property or providing any finance.

It is also my considered opinion that notwithstanding this landmark decision, the NLC should still be amended to bring about more stringent procedures and measures as regards how replacement titles are obtained, and dealings are presented and registered in order to be one step ahead of the criminal minds of fraud and forgery.

The writer is a former Chairman of the Conveyancing Practice Committee of the Bar Council. In Tan Ying Hong’s case, he held a watching brief for the Bar Council as its counsel.