Saturday, April 12, 2008

Price cuts for Windows Home editions

Source from The Star

KUALA LUMPUR: Microsoft Malaysia Sdn Bhd is cutting the prices for its Windows Home Basic and Home Premium editions, effective immediately.

While the software giant does not set a standard retail price for its products, users can expect to see reductions of 10% to 50%, depending on how they acquire the operating system.

Microsoft Malaysia Client Business Group director K.T. Ng said the price reductions are to keep Vista prices in line with constantly falling PC hardware prices.

Five years ago, Windows cost some 12% to 15% of the total price of a PC. "To keep that ratio now, we have to reduce our prices too," he said.

Ng said lower prices will encourage customers to upgrade from the Vista Home Basic Edition to the Vista Home Premium Edition, which provides additional features like automated defences against malware, better security, the Windows Aero desktop, and Windows Media Centre capabilities.

The price reductions will also encourage consumers to have original versions of Windows Vista installed on their PCs. This will give them access to the Service Pack updates that improve system performance and protection from security attacks.

"A year ago, only about half the PCs in Malaysia had an original copy of Windows installed. Now we're up to about 60% original Windows, and by the end of the year we hope to achieve 65%," Ng said.

He said Malaysia Is the only country in Asia where these price reductions are available, not only through vendors of internationally branded PCs but also through local PC vendors and white-box system builders' PCs.

"We want to support the local system builders' expertise. They form a large part of the local PC market," Ng said. The only other country where Microsoft is doing this is South Africa, he added.

However, the price reduction does not apply to the Windows Vista Business and Vista Ultimate Editions, Ng said. "These Editions are mostly deployed in the commercial environments, and our price cuts are intended for home and personal users," he explained.

Microsoft Malaysia also announced new channels for getting the Service Pack 1 updates for Vista.

SP1 has been included with Windows Vista preinstalled in new PCs since March, but is also available free to licensed users of the launch version of Vista.

Currently, those with a licensed copy can download SP1 from Windows Update, or from the Microsoft Download Centre. But from May 1, they can also go to to get SP1.

Or they can call 1-800-88-6295 and Microsoft will mail them a DVD with the SP1 updates.

"This is an option if you are facing bandwidth problems," Ng said.

The SP1 updates fixes some bugs remaining from the launch version of Windows Vista and improves system performance, helping notebook batteries last as much as 10% longer, Ng claimed.

These updates also improve file-transfer performance by 30% to 70%, he said. SP1 will also be included in retail packs sold after April 8, Ng added.

The different faces of Singapore - INSIGHT DOWN SOUTH

Source from The Star

The top 10% of the population are the rich, who live in wealthy districts, while the bottom 20% are the languishers who have difficulty coping with a high cost structured life. The third is the large middle class.

A SINGAPOREAN couple walked into a Lamborghini showroom and bought two units – his and hers – for US$650,000 (RM2.04mil) each.

“It’s amazing; young kids coming in and spending S$2mil (RM4.7mil),” the manager told a journalist. “I don’t think they were even 30 years old.”

Last year, 29 of these crème de la crème models were sold countrywide, beating Ferrari (26 cars).

In 2007 a total of 320 luxury cars including Rolls Royce, Bentley, Lotus, Aston Martin and Maserati, were sold to Singapore’s new rich.

As the nouveau riche basks in their newfound glory, more Singaporeans from the poorer quarters are approaching the government for food aid.

A growing number of homeless can be seen sleeping in void decks of buildings and, pressed by high living costs, more elderly citizens are working as toilet cleaners or collecting used cans for recycling.

Singapore remains largely a middle class society. The high number of shopping plazas attests to it. But the group may be decreasing as a result of globalisation and runaway prices.

The city-state of 4.7 million people has two – perhaps three – faces. On the top 10% are the rich, who live in wealthy districts, own yachts and blow S$10,000 (RM23,209) on a single meal.

At the bottom 20% of the population are the languishers who have difficulties coping with a high cost structured life in an international city. The third is the large middle class.

Take the case of Carol John, 27. She doesn’t own a bed, sleeps every night on thin mattresses with her three children. Hers is a one-bedroom flat that reeks of urine smell from the common corridor outside.

“I can’t save anything, it’s so difficult for me,” John, who is unemployed, told a reporter. She relies on her husband’s S$600 (RM1,392) monthly salary and S$100 (RM232) government handout.

She is luckier than others who are homeless – elderly and even entire families - who sleep at void decks or the beach and bathe at public restrooms.

In perspective, Singapore is the second richest country in Asia next to Japan, with a per capita GDP of US$48,900 (RM154,141).

Homeless cases are few, nowhere comparable in number to Osaka’s army of vagabonds or New York’s ‘bag ladies’.

In fact, nine out of 10 poor people in Singapore have their own home, and usually a phone and a refrigerator.

But in the local context, it is a potential minefield of unrest. The proportion of Singaporeans earning less than S$1,000 (RM2,320) a month rose to 18% last year, from 16% in 2002, according to central bank data.

The bad part is that life is often worse for the unemployed – compared to other countries - because Singapore has no safety net and no rural hinterland to cushion their suffering.

Unlike in Malaysia or Thailand, a jobless person who cannot cope with the global market has no countryside to retreat to so that he can live off the land.

The problem will get worse. In other words, the rich will get richer and the poor, poorer with the middle class remaining more or less stagnant.

The state’s Gini coefficient, a measure of income inequality, has worsened from 42.5 in 1998 to 47.2 in 2006, which makes it in league with the Philippines (46.1) and Guatemala (48.3), and worse than China (44.7) according to the World Bank.

Other wealthy Asian nations such as Japan, Korea and Taiwan have more European-style Ginis of 24.9, 31.6 and 32.6 respectively.

This is one of the worst failures of the modern People’s Action Party, despite its ‘democratic socialism’ principles.

It was with these that its first generation leaders were able to turn a poor squalid society into a middle class success story.

Economists attribute the major blame to globalisation, which benefits the skilled citizens and the rich but makes it hard for the unskilled, the aged and the sick.

Even the highly educated are not spared.

The use of new instruments like company restructuring, relocation or out-sourcing of workers – unheard of before – is widening the gap and creating more income inequality.

For example, while the proportion of lower income rises, those who earn S$8,000 (RM18,570) or more increased from 4.7% to 6%.

This rising inequality could eventually undermine the bedrock of society - the broad middle class.

Some economists say that the feared erosion of Japan’s middle class, first enunciated by Japanese strategist Kenichi Ohmae, may already be happening here.

His country was emerging into a “M-shape” class distribution, in which a very few middle class people may climb up the ladder into the upper class, while the others gradually sank to the lower classes.

These people suffered a deterioration in living standard, faced the threat of unemployment, or their average salary was dropping, he said.

Gradually, they can only live a way the lower classes live: e.g. take buses instead of driving their own car, cut their budget for meals instead of dining at better restaurants, spend less in consumer goods.

And, Kenichi said, all this might take place while the economy enjoyed remarkable growth and overall wages rose.

However, the wealth increase may concentrate in the pockets of the very few rich people in the society.

The masses cannot benefit from the growth, and their living standard goes into decline.

The Singapore government, which relies on the middle class vote to remain in power, has vowed to make economic gap-levelling its top priority – for survival, even if nothing else.

Half-a-million ringgit bra steals the show

Source The Star

A crystal bra worth half a million ringgit stole the show at the Triumph Ultimate Support Exhibition gala launch held at 1 Utama recently.

The specially designed 805gm bra, matching necklace and thong set feature 7,256 diamond-cut crystals from Swarovski. It took over 250 hours to hand-sew the crystals to this unique piece.

Triumph, with a 122 years worth of history in lingerie-making, unveiled its new logo design that night.

“We at Triumph are proud to present the brand's new logo that reflects our dedication to comfort, fashion, innovation and perfection. Its simplicity declares a steady modern image and the start of a new era for us,” Triumph marketing director Leow Sun Huat said.

Stunning: Models wearing local designers creations during the Triumph Ultimate Support Exhibition gala launch at 1 Utama.

He added that in conjunction with the new direction the brand was taking, they were working closely with WWF-Malaysia to promote awareness of the environment.

“Some of our new products to be launched soon will be eco-friendly, made from materials such as corn, Deccan hemp and even paper that are biodegradable and have been proven to be harmless to the skin and environment,” Leow said.

Also present at the event was WWF-Malaysia marketing director Choon Bow Bow who applauded Triumph’s effort to save Mother Earth.

“We should conserve natural resources. We also do not want our future generation to be deprived of the abundant flora and fauna we have today,” Choon said.

Adding sparkle to the event were local celebrities Miss Malaysia World 2007 Deborah Henry, singer Erra Fazira and local designers Bill Keith, Khoon Hooi, Carven Ong, Justin Yap, Jimmy Lim, Calvin Thoo, Richard Tsen and Jason Yek who contributed to the fashion show with their red hot designs. There were also performances by Noryn Aziz and Sharizan Borhan.

Expensive: The half-a-million-ringgit bra set that set the crowd roaring in approval.

The five-day exhibition held from April 2 to 6, featured a historical bra tunnel that explained its history, a WWF booth, unique bras such as The Glass Bra, an interactive booth, the brand’s new lingerie collection and of course, the crystal bra.

Grads prefer to stay on overseas


Source The Star

PUTRAJAYA: More and more medical students sent abroad to study on government scholarships, many costing more than a million ringgit each, are breaking their 10-year bond by refusing to return and serve in public hospitals.

“This is a sore point with us. In 2006, 21 medical students in Britain did not return. Last year, the number was 63. For those studying in Ireland, three students did not come back in 2006 while last year, 27 did not return,” said Human Capital Development division director Datin Madinah Mohamad.

She said these students cost the Government up to RM1.1mil each in funding for the five-year course.

“The number has been steadily increasing each year since 2003. The excuse these undergraduates often give is that they want to do their two-year housemanship over there and continue with sub-specialisation courses.

“But when they do so, they may then get employed and become eligible for registration in Britain. With the pay they are getting there, it’s highly unlikely they will come back and serve here,” she said in an interview here yesterday.

Since 2003, 145 students from Britain and 85 from Ireland have not come back. However, only three from Russia, two from Jordan and one from Japan failed to return.

Another reason many students chose to stay back could have been due to PSD’s perceived lenient treatment of such students in the past and a paltry penalty of RM160,000 each before 2003, she said.

“It encouraged undergraduates, who have seen many of their seniors being let off, to follow suit,” she said.

Although the department had officers in Britain and Ireland to track down errant medical students, some in the last year of studies ignored notices and others did not bother to show up when called for interviews.

She said tougher measures were needed to make them come back and serve or pay their bond.

The department was now seriously considering suggestions to make errant students repay twice or thrice the sum of their scholarships as punishment.

“We need to study this recommendation,” she said, adding the department had also handed 30 such cases since 1989 to the Attorney-General’s Chambers for legal action and had even declared one former student bankrupt.

But legal action was slow and guarantors would be taken to court only as the last resort, she said.

Since PSD’s Overseas Scholarship Programme started in 2000, RM2.15bil in scholarships had been given to 10,485 students up to the end of last year.


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