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The industry is quietly changing both its terminology and tune. It has also been less than honest about data rates. The new services coming this year are packet switched--that is the key breakthrough. The technology is known as GPRS and the enhanced version, which has dropped off the radar screen, is called EDGE. EDGE has always been referred to as 2.5G, but GRPS is now being repositioned as a 2.5G technology. Does it matter? Only to purists, but 2.5G will not deliver "data speeds two to three times faster than before" and that is important. The new services will launch with theoretical rates of around 20 or 40 Kbps, but with packet-switching the resource is shared so the real rates are much lower.
What is ironic is the fact that data rates are less relevant than the tariffs, which will be based on the amount of data used, not on time and distance (the current model). Thus, what counts is not the speed at which e-mail and other data are delivered, but the cost.
Eindhoven, The Netherlands Regarding your editorial "Japan has to help its consumers" (Mar. 26): Reducing the sales tax or applying a "negative" sales tax might tempt some savers, but in effect it is only a discounting policy. If a negative sales tax was expressed not as cash but as a spending voucher with a limited time window, consumers would do what usually is natural, but currently stifled, i.e., consume--as soon as possible and on items they choose. They would feel good about the choice and the bargain.
David F. Gates
Johannesburg, South Africa As you say in "The white knight rides in again" (Latin America, Apr. 2), recovery remains elusive for Argentina. The main problem facing Argentina now is the fixed exchange rate established in 1991 by Domingo Cavallo himself, which overvalues the peso by fixing the parity at one peso for one dollar, while the true equilibrium exchange rate was, and still is, around two pesos for one dollar. The wrong parity has profound depressive effects on the economy.
Only with a freely floating exchange rate, fiscal austerity, and appropriate monetary reform and policy, including the undoing of the partial dollarization of the economy, will Argentina be able to reach full employment over the medium term, and repay its foreign debt over the long term.
Buenos Aires If Mahathir Mohamad was a disaster for his country, who was responsible for the "hard-won gains that have lifted tens of millions of Thais, Malaysians, and Indonesians out of poverty since the 1970s" that "Asia's big chill" refers to (Asian Edition Cover Story, Apr. 2)?
Greenwich, England Regarding "Can Super Mario save Swissair?" (European Business, Apr. 2): The photo used with this Swissair item depicts a Boeing 747, an aircraft type that has not been part of the Swissair fleet for at least two years. The photo also does not depict the current Swissair color scheme.
Geneva All the deficiencies you heap upon German CEOs ("The humbling of Germany's superbosses," European Business, Mar. 26), exemplified by J?rgen E. Schrempp, Ron Sommer, and Rolf-Ernst Breuer, are not at all typical for Germany, but can be found as well in the U.S.
Kirchzarten, Germany "No cartwheels for Handspring" (Information Technology, Apr. 2) says the CE operating system is complex and makes it hard to develop software. Last summer I gave my 14-year-old son a moderately cheap Pocket PC with a black-and-white screen but the latest Windows CE on it together with a CD of development tools and said: "Go and see if you can make good use of it." Well, it took him 30 minutes to get his snake game, which he had written earlier with VisualBasic on the PC, converted and running on the Pocket PC.
I think that tells: a) There are millions of Basic programmers out there able to develop their own thing with tools freely available on the Web, and b) Don't repeat my mistake and believe that youngsters will be happy for long with a low-memory, noncolor machine--you end up buying the pricier one anyway.
Karlskron, Germany Jeffrey E. Garten is on the right track but far too limited in his suggestions about "Intellectual property: new answers to new problems" (Economic Viewpoint, Apr. 2). Our research on intellectual property issues in China and India suggests that rather than trying the old, failed way of American legal sanctions over disputes, new third-culture procedures for dispute settlement need to be negotiated by true transculturals (people from each country who possess bicultural competence with the other countries and hence are able to find the mutually acceptable third-culture way). Clearly, Brazil, China, India, and others will resist the bullying of the tough guys sent by business associations such as the Recording Industry Association of America and various national pharmaceutical trade groups.