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"It would probably be pretty good for Microsoft...it has not had the best success in creating really hip, young-people-grabbing stuff on the Web." — Kim Caughey, analyst at Fort Pitt Capital Group, on Microsoft's reported $300 million to $500 million bid for a 5% stake of Facebook, as reported by Reuters

With fans eagerly lining up for an initial peek, and a staggering first-day take of $170 million in the U.S., the debut of Halo 3, the latest installment of Microsoft's (MSFT) popular Xbox 360 video game, resembled nothing less than a blockbuster movie release. The similarity goes way beyond the cult following and the crowds. Consider the parallels with the release of Sony Pictures' (SNE) Spider-Man 3, the year's biggest box office hit. Like the film, Halo 3 is a long-awaited "three-quel." (And like Spidey, its protagonist, Master Chief, fights the forces of evil.) These days, a hot video game is marketed—and consumed—a lot like a Hollywood hit.

Halo 3

Spider-Man 3

Revenues

First Day: $170 million in the U.S. All three installments now approaching $1 billion.

First Day: $104 million worldwide. Gross for the three films in the franchise: $2.5 billion.

Product Tie-Ins

Game Fuel, a limited-edition Mountain Dew beverage with Master Chief featured on the packaging.

General Mills’ cereal commercial starring the Trix rabbit dressed up as Spidey.

Merchandise

Everything from McFarlane Toys action figures and Topps trading cards to wall clings and replica weapons.

Themed Johnson & Johnson Band-Aids, special Crest toothbrushes, sodas from Canada’s Cott.

Soundtrack

To be released by Sumthing Else Music, featuring Lenny Kravitz and 30 Seconds to Mars.

Released by Record Collection, featuring The Killers (Move Away) and Chubby Checker (The Twist).

Reviews

Big thumbs-up in the blogosphere. Video game site Joystiq: “The most well-paced and plotted Halo ever.”

Mixed-to-bad notices (Variety: “...the faint odor of running on fumes”) didn’t diminish the box office.

Media Crossover

Halo, the movie, currently in development, though delayed by budget concerns.

Spider-Man 3 video game (Activision). Released May 4, the same day as the film.

Women bought 37% of new vehicles sold through August this year, including some premium models. A survey of hundreds of auto dealerships by J.D. Power & Associates reveals the kind of cars women want. Here's a hint: The luxury car with the highest male ownership is the Audi RS4. It starts at $66,910 and goes from zero to 60 in under 5 seconds. The car most owned by females: the S40, at the bottom of Volvo's luxe line. It starts at $24,000 and aced the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's frontal crash test.

A collection of spy cameras—everything from tricked-out cigarette packs to a device strapped to pigeons in World War I—will be auctioned off at Guernsey's in New York on Oct 19. Most items are of Cold War vintage and were used by the CIA,FBI, KGB, or East German Stasi.

The collection's owner, Jack Naylor, a former CEO of manufacturer Standard-Thomson, developed a passion for photography as a World War II pilot. He accumulated spy cameras over the next 25 years, in part when doing business in the former Soviet Union. Naylor says his Soviet minder in those days "was a very nice guy, KGB," who, to help with the hobby, arranged for Naylor to pick up a box left "in a certain restaurant." Naylor says he paid "something like $4,000" for the package, which included a KGB agent's jacket with a camera in a button. (It was operated from the pocket.)

As he nears 90, Naylor is selling his collectibles, with the 165 spy cameras for sale as one lot. "The whole is greater than the sum of its parts," says Guernsey's President Arlan Ettinger. Naylor estimates the collection to be worth more than $4 million. Likely bidders? Naylor's spokesman, Jonathan Barkan, says most of the interest has been "institutional" so far.

The loan with the worst reputation these days may be the pay-option ARM. Monthly payments for this adjustable-rate mortgage go up when interest rates rise. And borrowers can sink deeper into debt because they're permitted to pay less than the minimum interest due each month, with the balance added to the principal. If homeowners hit the maximum they're allowed to borrow, their monthly minimum shoots up, which can force them into default (BW—Sept. 11, 2006).

A new academic study concludes that this most toxic of all mortgages is, in a perfect world, the best. How can that be? Because if borrowers have erratic incomes but perfect self-control, they can make small payments in lean months and catch-up payments in good times. That flexibility lessens the risk of default caused by a hiccup in income, a benefit to both borrowers and lenders.

The authors of the National Bureau of Economic Research working paper, Tomasz Piskorski of Columbia Business School and Alexei Tchistyi of New York University's Stern School of Business, say that rather than banning the loans, as some have advocated, the U.S. should educate consumers about their hazards and how to use them properly. Piskorski calculates that the ARMs' total potential benefit to borrowers and lenders combined is at least $50 billion, so even hefty spending on education would be worthwhile.

The public reaction to the study findings has been mixed. One comment on BusinessWeek.com's Hot Property blog: "Experts shouldn't be promoting this type of product for the general population, even just in theory."

With all the hubbub over whether former Fed chief Alan Greenspan is second-guessing his successor, Ben Bernanke, few people seem to have noticed that an entire committee of backseat drivers has been quiet of late.

The Shadow Open Market Committee was formed in 1973 by a group of monetarist economists dismayed by high inflation under Federal Reserve Chairman Arthur Burns. It's an unofficial parallel version of the Fed arm that sets interest rates. For years the media followed SOMC pronouncements. But the group hasn't issued a statement since May, 2006, three months into Bernanke's term. What helped to silence the Shadow? In August, 2006, its co-chair, University of Rochester economist Charles Plosser, stepped into the spotlight as president of the Philadelphia Fed. Says Anna Schwartz, 91, the other co-chair (who wrote a major economic history with the late Milton Friedman): "The shadow is in limbo right now."

English may be the global language of business, but it turns out a little Latvian comes in handy. Demand for translations into the Baltic tongue grew faster than any other translation request over the last year at Britain's SDL International. SDL uses both humans and computers to translate about 1 billion words a year for Microsoft (MSFT), Sony (SNE), Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), and other multinationals.

The rise in translations into Eastern European languages outpaced translations into Asian languages, the big growth area in recent years. One reason: Eastern Europeans' increased buying power is prompting consumer companies like Dutch electronics giant Philips (PHG) to offer owners' manuals and customer support in the local languages.

Adam Victor, an engineer who has trolled for oil and minerals from Africa to Saudi Arabia, hasn't had much luck getting a coal gasification plant built in Brooklyn (N.Y.) over the last five years. But he's hoping the specter of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will help.

While New York was still reeling from the Iranian leader's much-criticized appearance at Columbia University and his anti-U.S. tirade at the U.N., Victor took out full-page ads in the Sept. 26 New York Post and The New York Sun featuring a smiling Ahmadinejad. "How do you prevent America's energy needs from being held hostage by this man?" the copy asked.

The answer: Let Victor's TransGas Development Systems build its plant and use some of the country's "vast coal resources." (Coal gasification involves using steam and pressure to break apart coal's carbon molecules to extract clean-burning hydrogen.)

Audacious? No question. But Victor, whose plans have been rebuffed by the administration of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and a couple of state judges, insists it's all about schooling the public "that our way of life depends on securing our own sources of fuel and energy," he says.

He put Ahmadinejad in the ad, Victor says, because "he's recognizable. Initially, we thought, Let's put in an Arab sheikh,' but some of those guys are nice guys—this guy is unambiguously a problem."

Unmoved by the Ahmadinejad angle, a lawyer for the city says Brooklyn would be better served by a public park on Victor's planned site.

Got parental guilt about time spent on the job? A recent nationwide survey by GfK Roper Consulting found working parents' anxieties didn't match children's sentiments. In fact, today's kids almost equally prefer having parents work (35%) and having a stay-at-home mom (36%). One explanation for such equanimity? As have other studies, the Roper survey found that U.S. parents' time with their kids has grown since 2003—in this case, from 26 hours a week to 30.8 hours. No word on how much of that is spent in BlackBerry trance.


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