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Tech Roundup: Apple U., Handset Freefall, ZeroG Funding, Tech Firms Finance, More

Handset companies ready for freefall -- Sales for mobile phones next year could fall between four and 27 percent compared to this year, warn analysts. If that happened, it would end an almost 15 year growth streak broken only by a four percent drop in 2001. Existing users are taking longer to get new phones and first-time users can't make up the difference. Most vulnerable are Motorola and Sony Ericcson. So don't be surprised if one of the ring tone options becomes a funeral dirge. [Source: Wall Street Journal]

Apple building employee continuing eduction -- Crank up the in-house employee development in Cupertino; Steve Jobs just hired Joel Podolny, until the end of the calendar year dean of the Yale School of Management. So far neither Podolny nor Apple's PR department is willing to say anything of substance â€"- not surprising, given the company's proclivity to control all information. The academic is an expert in economic sociology and was responsible for overhauling Yale's curriculum. Hopefully by the time classes start at Apple, he'll at least be allowed to tell the new students what is going on. [Source: href="" mce_href="">Financial Times Management Blog, Yale Daily News]

Money for ubiquitous Wi-Fi -- ZeroG Wirelessraised another $17 million in funding for its embedded Wi-Fi chips. It's going in a different direction than most other semiconductor vendors in the space by looking at low-cost, low-power consumption devices that would be embedded in virtually anything. The company has raised $30 million altogether and expects its first products out next quarter. Maybe they could take the next step and find an efficient way to assign all those necessary IP addresses. [Source: VentureBeat]

Tech firms lending to customers -- Defaults on loans to buy technology have spiked from about 0.48 percent last year to 0.86 percent this year, or close to the same rate of real estate loans that banks will write off in this quarter. Lenders that provided the flow of cash that came to about 14 percent of all the money spent on hardware and software to turn back the spigot. So some large tech companies are opening their own money streams to customers, expanding their risk. IBM is offering loans at below market rates with no payments for 90 days, even though its seen the default rate rise by 0.2 percentage points between the second and third quarters. Cisco and Oracle are also expanding their financing, while Dell is considering it. But they have to be careful not to suddenly play "now you pay me, now you don't." [Source: Wall Street Journal]

Microsoft studies emerging markets -- Action comes from need and resources, which is one way of saying that Fitzgerald was right when he said that the rich really are different. They can afford to be. Economically emerging societies are often different for exactly the opposite reason, so Microsofthas a nine-member team at its Microsoft Research India facilities looking at how to adapt technology so it is useful to people who have always lived without it. One example: farming cooperatives needed ways of quickly updating records and receiving pricing for crops, only the PCs designated to do this often broke down or were unavailable, so the group devised a scheme using one properly-managed PC and lots of cell phones to text in the information. However, a survey of 8,000 people in emerging markets suggests that the biggest demand for technology in emerging markets was entertainment and Internet surfing. Hmm, maybe they're not so different after all. [Source: New York Times]

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