"I don't see anything in the settlement that will concern the retail investor about Morgan Stanley." -- Morgan Stanley CEO Philip Purcell, after regulators found his firm didn't disclose payments of $2.7 million to other Wall Street firms to publish research about its clients A dream just came true for the chip industry. For decades, engineers have tried to coax ordinary silicon to emit light. Then silicon could be used not only for computer chips but also for optical devices such as microlasers, which require expensive materials to build. That would be an enormous boon. In telecom, for example, it would end the need for different chip technologies to handle many chores, cutting costs and streamlining design.
Now IBM (IBM) has found this long-sought universal material. But it isn't silicon. In the May 2 issue of Science, IBM researchers report it's the carbon nanotube -- a wee whisker of carbon about 100,000 times thinner than a human hair.
Nanotubes have long been viewed as the likeliest successor to silicon technology when it runs out of steam around 2015. That's because nanotubes can function as a conducting wire or as a semiconductor. Adding photonic capabilities "closes the circle," says Phaedon Avouris, an IBM researcher. "Now, everything can be done with nanotubes."
This breakthrough could make nanotubes so alluring that their commercial debut may advance, perhaps to the end of this decade. The FBI already has its hands full tracking possible terrorist cells and securing the homeland. Can it find some time to sniff out the source of a leaked customer-satisfaction survey? Thomas Siebel hopes so.
Siebel is founder and CEO of Siebel Systems (SEBL), a maker of software that helps companies manage their customer relationships. Last month, someone managed to get hold of the company's third-quarter 2002 customer satisfaction survey and leaked it to analysts and the press. But only the most negative comments, including criticism that some of Siebel's software was sluggish, were leaked from the confidential report. So Siebel executives sprang into damage control mode. They did the expected, presenting some of the report's positive findings to analysts and press on Apr. 9. They called the leak "malicious." And then they did the unexpected: They asked the Feds to find the culprit.
Well, it appears the Bureau's resources may be tied up elsewhere. A Siebel spokeswoman says the company has not heard back from the FBI, but insists that it's not discouraged. "These things usually take a while," she says. Siebel went to the FBI because they consider the leak to be a "theft of trade secrets," which is something the Feds do look at.
An FBI spokesperson in the San Francisco office says they can't discuss potential investigations. And so far, a Siebel investigation has not provided any answers. The Amber Alert System, which uses the media and the emergency response system to spread the word about missing kids, is credited with finding 60 children since its 1996 debut. Yet it wasn't until Apr. 30 that President George Bush signed a bill authorizing its rollout nationwide.
Corporate America, however, is already on the case. This winter, SBC Communications (SBC) and BellSouth (BLS) launched programs to distribute the alerts. The California Trucking Assn. began a similar push in October. And America Online has allowed customers to receive alerts via e-mail, mobile phones, and pagers since November.
The phone companies and the California trucking group are enlisting their workers in the field as extra eyes in the hunt for missing kids. BellSouth and SBC relay messages from police to 22,400 field technicians via pagers, text messages on cell phones, and laptops. Truckers get alerts on their CB radios.
None of which is a surrogate for vigilant law enforcement, says Rod Odom, president of BellSouth's network services. But, he says, "if we can make a difference in even one kidnapping, it certainly is worth our effort." Did watching the war on TV make you yearn, just for a moment, to be an elite soldier? Most of us aren't remotely qualified, but marketers are hoping we'll soon share something special with the troops abroad: their gear.
Yes, equipment fresh from the battlefield is about to hit shelves. By May, Oakley will launch its Assault Boot, designed for the U.S. Army's Special Forces. Oakley, better known for its futuristic sunglasses, says the $225 boot is quiet, as comfy as an athletic shoe, and more durable than a hiking boot.
Other outfitters are still testing new equipment in the Persian Gulf. Gregory Mountain Products is working with the Marines on a streamlined version of its consumer-oriented Denali Pro backpack. Gregory expects the testing will aid the design of new lightweight packs for consumers coming out later this year. CamelBak, whose soft-sided canteens are a hybrid water bottle and backpack, developed a new filtering system to protect U.S. troops in Kuwait from water-borne bacteria. It will be available in stores later this spring.
No word so far on when CamelBak plans to revive the ads it pulled as the war began. The tag line:"Hydrate or die." Dot-com refugees are finding a second career on the naughty side of the Net. While exact numbers are hard to find, former dot-commers working for online adult businesses say hundreds of co-workers have been lured by job openings in the virtual red-light district. "When opportunities are few and far between, good jobs attract people to [the online sex industry]," says Malcolm CasSelle, CEO of Elima Biotronics, which sells a sexual-enhancement vitamin supplement through its Web site, OpusX.net. CasSelle is a founder of now defunct Netnoir.com, a site designed for African Americans.
Other Netrepreneurs have taken to the virtual skin trade, too. When his Net consultancy Studio Unity folded three years ago, Jason Diesel started selling sex toys online at Universal Playthings. Business is booming. Same for Gary Kremen, CEO of Sex.com, a porn search engine. He is the founder of online dating site Match.com. Says a dot-commer now at an adult site: "The company I'm working for now is profitable. Say what you want, but that's more than my old bosses could claim." Owners of some of the Hamptons' swankiest houses are finally admitting the bubble has burst. Over the past year, sellers in New York's posh beach towns have reluctantly discounted their manses. "They were asking for premiums that were never even achieved at the height of the bubble," says Hamptons Cottages & Gardens managing editor Lockhart Steele.
It's not clear if price reductions will spur sales. Edison Schools CEO Chris Whittle listed his 11-acre estate at $45 million in the fall of 2002; now it's $36 million. Wall Streeter Nick Forstmann's oceanfront spread was listed by his widow at $35 million, but a year later it's $26 million. And WorldCom ex-director Francesco Galesi's 55,000-square-foot castle was $45 million in 2000; now it's $30 million. Some homes linger on the market because they appeal to "a very singular taste," says broker Gary De Persia, with Allan M. Schneider Associates. Galesi's castle, for one, has a holding tank for sharks.
Says Cook Pony Farm broker Judi Desiderio: "A lot of these prices are about attention-grabbing." After a year or two on the market, sellers may welcome any attention.