While reading "The Web Smart 50," (Special Report, Nov.24) I was surprised that you seem to believe using a cheap and pervasive public network to achieve what would be just as possible with a more expensive, nonpervasive network qualifies a company as Web-smart . None of your 50 contenders (except Amazon.com Inc.) has done anything besides take advantage of the gigantic opportunity offered by cheaper network connections to do things they should have done anyway (knowledge-sharing intranets, automated supply chains, etc.). None of the applications described are Web-dependent, as such. Wireless applications and radio frequency identification (RFID) have nothing to do with Web smarts at all, just as the bar code has nothing to do with electronic data interchange (EDI). In this respect, the cheap, pervasive infrastructure that is the basis of the Web will probably displace dedicated and expensive EDI connections in five years.
A Web-smart company uses the content and reach of the Web to its advantage, not just the inherent (cheaper) connectivity. Using a cheaper device does not signify smartness, just common sense.
Amsterdam Although Nissan's (NSANY) CEO thinks that hybrids won't take off and the Big Three pray for an even stronger yen, Detroit is still sound asleep while Toyota Motor Corp. (TM) and the Koreans are biting big chunks off the global market ("Can anything stop Toyota?" Cover Story, Nov. 17). Unlike other industries, auto makers have had no fresh supply of visionaries who can think in the stratosphere while performing on the ground. They should understand that bottom-line growth, while important, is less than half of the formula you mentioned in your article. Toyota remains dependent on its U.S. business for some 70% of earnings, and its Lexus luxury sedans are losing ground to BMW. Unless the U.S. automotive industry changes its genetic code, the Big Three's brass should be readying themselves for the bad news.
Last September, I was looking for a new car ("Lexus: Still looking for traction in Europe," Cover Story, Nov. 17). I considered a few brands, including a Lexus, the more low-end 200IS. I went to the only dealership in Luxembourg City. There were two customers -- an elderly man and I -- and one salesman, who was dealing with the other customer. It took them 15 to 20 minutes to finish. I was willing to wait, although there were other salesmen in the attached Toyota dealership. When the other customer had gone, instead of taking care of me, the salesman left the showroom to have a cigarette with his colleagues. I was left standing there like an idiot. So I left angry and bought a German brand.
This might be an isolated case, but one thing is for sure: A long time will pass before I walk into a Lexus dealership again. A buyer wants to be taken care of. Having nice ads about the luxury and reliance of their cars will lead to nothing if their sales force still thinks cheap. In that regard, Toyota/Lexus is still far behind the competition.
Also, the German brand salesmen (even the German natives) made the effort to speak the Luxembourg language, trying to adapt to Luxembourg. The Lexus dealers spoke only French, so the customer had to adapt to them. That also makes a difference.
Luxembourg In "The oil lord" (European Edition Cover Story, Oct. 27), BP PLC Chief Executive John Brownes contends that there is increased danger in investing in Nigeria. This is a feeble attempt to justify BP's (BP) inability to penetrate Nigeria's oil and gas sector after several attempts. The truth is that BP's nationalization by the Nigerian military government in the late 1970s forced the multinational out of the country. Since then, BP has been unable to gain a foothold because of the dominant position of Shell, Exxon Mobil (XOM), ChevronTexaco (CVX), Total Fina Elf (TOT), etc. It is imperative that Browne devise a superior strategy rather than make such provocative statements.
I guess Browne will be apprehensive about the safety of BP's investment in Russia following the government's detention and replacement of Mikhail B. Khodorkovsky at Yukos.
Port Harcourt, Nigeria Your story on MBA grads finally getting job offers misses an issue that still frustrates most international students in the U.S. ("For MBAs, the famine is over," Management, Nov. 24). Companies, inundated with r?sum?s, are not yet willing to take the extra step of sponsoring graduates who have only student visas. I don't see improved opportunities for international MBAs until the market brings down the bargaining power of companies doing the hiring.
I applaud my Duke University classmate, Leandro Bello, mentioned in the article, for tactfully dodging the double whammy.
Arlington, Va. "Move over, desktops. Make way for laptops" (Tech Buying Guide, Nov. 10) is very instructive but should have addressed the concern a buyer may feel about the warranty services provided for laptops. In my case, I bought an Acer TravelMate, which broke in the first month of use. I sent it to the repair center in Britain, and after one month it is still there. I have not been provided an estimated delivery date, and it looks as if they may be incapable of fixing it.
For a traveler, it is important to have an international, fast, and reliable repair service under the warranty contract. Under this criterion, I would never buy an Acer again.