Many of the sites highlighted in "The Web Smart 50" have been built on open-source software, freely available to one and all around the world (Special Report, Nov. 21). Furthermore, those sites are generally accessible from any Web browser on any platform. The standards-compliant Safari on Mac OS X and Firefox on numerous platforms often work better with these sites than does Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT) Internet Explorer on Windows.
Applications such as these disrupt the status quo and pose a substantial business threat to the hegemony of Microsoft and enterprise software vendors.
In "Inflation: shoppers vs. the bond market" (Economics, Nov. 21), the statement, "What matters most is not what inflation was, but what people think it's going to be," is off base. Inflation is notoriously the worst of the lagging indicators, generally peaking well after the economy has peaked, and more importantly, well after bond yields have peaked.
More likely the bond market accurately smells the eventual negative impact on growth from the persistent Fed tightening and the past surge in oil. This is now being compounded by clear signs of cooling in the housing market as housing affordability is at its lowest level in more than a decade.
Robert J. Parish
As for the increased emphasis designers are placing on developing products to market to mainland China, the question still looms as to when China will start to enforce copyrights and make an effort to thwart the rampant counterfeiting and reproduction ("China design," Asian Cover Story, Nov. 21).
It seems evident from your article that many large multinationals are willing to accept this risk to establish a presence in China. But as consumers' buying power continues to rise in China, they will demand more products and services that might not be available until the Chinese government takes action to protect rights. Hopefully we will see some change in policy (or development of some) in the near term to allow for more investment in China.
Your article highlights Haier Group Co.'s design of locating the dishwasher controls on the top of the machine (vs. the front panel) as an element of convenience for the user. The cited designer, Shen Weibin, should offer credit to another manufacturer (KitchenAid) that introduced this identical feature two-plus years ago! This idea did not come from their think tank! U.S. companies should be concerned that the last bastion of competitiveness, design, may be open to the same treatment and enforcement of intellectual property rights.
Michael Stefko Jr.
The Haier dishwasher looks strikingly similar to the Bosch model that our family purchased three years ago. The Chinese have done a remarkable job as a manufacturer for the world, but they rely on copycat design, if not a complete disregard for intellectual property rights.
Arlington Heights, Ill.
The manner in which well-educated citizens, many of them MBAs, are handling their personal finances does not say much for their college education ("Thirty & Broke," Special Report, Nov. 14). These loans are less than their annual incomes and could be paid off within a few years of belt-tightening.
Matters are not very different in the U.S. government ("Spending is out of control," Outside Shot, Nov. 14). The author quotes George Washington about "not ungenerously throwing upon posterity the burden which we ourselves ought to bear." How will posterity bear the burden of a huge federal budget deficit when it is struggling with personal debt? And what will happen when the Thirty & Broke generation is running the finances of the U.S. government?
"Invasion of the stock hackers" (News: Analysis & Commentary, Nov. 14) highlights the danger created by many U.S. online banking and trading companies, where ease of use supersedes the security necessity. Living in the Netherlands, I often gripe about the security protocol necessary in order to use my local Internet banking and trading accounts. Requirements such as the use of a unique bank pass in combination with a random PIN generator for online banking, or the ability to transfer funds out of a trading account only to the account of the money origination, no longer seem to be tedious and overdone.
No system is fail-safe. Nevertheless, kudos to the Dutch system, where security protocols are not taken for granted and the skills and tenacity of the crooks are not underestimated.
Den Bosch, The Netherlands
"The ground war at FedEx" (News: Analysis & Commentary, Nov. 28) took on a complex legal matter. What it failed to acknowledge are 14,000 current owner-operators for FedEx Ground, 99.5% of whom have nothing to do with the lawsuits. We believe your article misstated, or missed altogether, some points very important to the overwhelming majority of these independent contractors, as well as to the company.
The primary issue here is the alleged "control" exerted on independent contractors. The operating agreement they signed when they began their relationship with FedEx Ground includes terms that are driven by customer and regulatory requirements. It is inaccurate to say, "FedEx agrees it imposes some work rules on drivers...." Three FedEx Ground contractors conveyed that point of view to BusinessWeek and directly contradicted the plaintiff you interviewed on the issue of mandated starting times and other alleged "rules."
Contrary to the views of plaintiffs' attorneys, the California superior court decision you cited actually provides us with the opportunity to continue operating with contractors throughout the state, making adjustments as necessary.
Three-quarters of the plaintiffs in this case no longer have a business relationship with the company. They -- and their lawyers -- now seek financial reward through the courts, instead of through the opportunity of business ownership at FedEx Ground. We believe that the courts -- as they have done in more than 100 previous cases -- will ultimately uphold an arrangement that allows owner-operators to continue their successful businesses as FedEx Ground independent contractors.
Daniel J. Sullivan
President and CEO
Moon Township, Pa.
Editor's note: See Corrections & Clarifications