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"There will be less than a handful of end-game winners. We will be an end-game winner." -- Chase Manhattan Chairman and CEO William Harrison Jr., announcing that Chase is buying J.P. MorganEdited by Robert McNattReturn to top

Buy This Pontiac, Whippersnapper

GM's Pontiac division is losing momentum with young car buyers. So the division, which has historically targeted sporty-minded youth, plans to launch a new sport wagon in 2003 to lure them back. Its tentative name: the Vibe.

Just since 1994, the average age of Pontiac buyers has risen to 42 from 40. To appeal to younger buyers, say GM insiders, the Vibe will have a cleaner look, ditching the garish outside plastic cladding other Pontiacs often have.

Pontiac has gotten out of the gate slowly with its current youth-oriented vehicle--the Aztek sport-ute, which missed its August sales target. Brand manager Don Butler blamed shipping problems at the Aztek's Mexican plant. But some dealers have a simpler explanation. Says Buz Post, owner of a Pontiac dealership in Arlington, Tex.: "It's a good vehicle, it's just ugly." That is not exactly the vibe that GM is hoping to send out.By David Welch; Edited by Robert McNattReturn to top

A Little Box Worth $500 Million

Last fall, networking industry veteran Mory Ejabat shocked even jaded Silicon Valley veterans by raising a record $500 million in private funding for his new startup, Zhone Technologies. His plan was to create a single piece of equipment capable of handling telephone, Internet, cable and broadcast TV, and wireless services--the Holy Grail of digital convergence.

On Sept. 26, the world will finally get to see what Zhone has wrought. The Broadband Access Node is a $100,000-plus machine that allows telcos, cable-TV outfits, and Internet service providers to offer all those services through one box.

That could cut the cost of adding new services by up to 80%, estimates market researcher TeleChoice. An ISP offering digital subscriber lines, for example, could cheaply add phone service. BAN should eliminate the need to create separate voice, data, and video networks.

Would-be customers are clearly intrigued. Ejabat, who also founded Ascend Communications--sold to Lucent Technologies for $24 billion last year--says 98% of those contacted, including AT&T, have agreed to take a look at the project. But will his magic box work? "The [big money] will either help us succeed or fail faster," jokes WorldCom vice-chairman John Sidgmore, a Zhone director. But if Zhone fails, its investors--some of whom anted up $100 million--won't be laughing.By Peter Burrows; Edited by Robert McNattReturn to top

Mini Music Heats Up

Microsoft's Pocket PC Web site trumpets that it's the only handheld computer with audio capability. Word to the software satraps in Redmond: Better update your site. The heavy hitters in this market are ready to match you.

This month, Handspring, maker of the Visor, and Palm, of Palm Pilot fame, introduce clip-ons that turn their handhelds into MP3 players and audio playback devices. Users can download CD-quality music files and convert text files to audio on their machines.

The $500 Microsoft Pocket PC with its built-in Windows Media Player, manufactured by Compaq Computer and others, made its debut in March. But market leaders Handspring and Palm--whose technology Visor uses--aren't ceding any ground in the gadget wars. They view add-ons as more facile than what Palm vice-president Byron Connell calls Microsoft's "muddled solution." So what's coming? Good Technology's $269 SoundsGood player for the Visor; the $179 Porta-Sound MP3 player from Shinei, designed for Palm's college-crowd Palm M100; and in December, the $299 PocketPyro's player for the Palm V, aimed at the business user.By Joan Oleck; Edited by Robert McNattReturn to top

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