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Just How Innovative Is Google?

Despite being heralded as one of the world's most innovative companies, every "innovation" that Google (GOOG) seems to have planned is either an acquisition or a replication of an existing idea ("Google's grand ambitions," News: The United States, Sept. 5/12). The company's true strength is in its brand -- and really only in search. Google needs to remember this, or else all of these brand extensions won't mean anything. There already seems to be a growing revolt among some of tech's savviest, as Google's search-engine-results pages (SERPs) fall behind those of MSN (MSFT) and even Yahoo! (YHOO) AdWords and AdSense are both great programs, but enrollment is high only because Google is the Wal-Mart (WMT) of search. If Google's search falls behind any further, the door will be open for new technologies to claim the throne -- and the accompanying ad revenue.

J.D. Amer

Akron, Ohio

Thank you for your wonderful analysis and projection of the economy for the world's two most populous nations ("China & India: What you need to know now," Special Report, Aug. 22/29). However, your arguments appear to be based on a couple of crucial assumptions, namely: that both China and India will continue to enjoy political stability for the next half-century; and that there will be no military conflict of any kind with any other countries during the same period.

Politics and economies are inseparable. Barring the political factor, any prediction of economic development or advance would at best be less than appropriate, or inadequate -- if not futile. What will guarantee that China won't take up arms if pushed into a corner because of Taiwan (or, for that matter, North Korea)? What will keep India from military engagement to settle old scores with its neighbors when there is no other viable option?

Tan Boon Tee

Terengganu, Malaysia

You ask: "Asian Competition: Is the cup half empty -- or half full?" (Cover Story, Aug. 22/29). My answer is "half full." No other society values and attaches a premium to innovation and competition more than the U.S. The U.S. will have to play the role of a global research incubator. Only then can it maintain the upward trajectory in its quality of life even as India and China so deservedly will continue to maintain theirs. Federal agencies like the National Science Foundation have to seek political backing to implement innovative approaches wherein top university undergraduates are offered fully funded graduate education with easy access to venture capital. It would be truly daring to throw open those opportunities to the best and brightest undergraduates from other countries -- and yes, including India and China.

Abhijit Bhattacharyya

University of Arkansas

Little Rock

How can you ignore the purchasing power parity (PPP) measure of the Chinese and Indian national incomes ("A new world economy," Special Report, Aug. 22/29)? Under this measure, both economies are about five times as large as they are when calculated at prevailing exchange rates. More important, the PPP calculation enumerates very clearly these countries' comparative advantage in key export sectors, where a dollar at current exchange rates goes five times as far.

Mohamed Cassam

Vienna, Va.

I think Robert Barker's underlying skepticism about iRobot makes sense -- the trail is littered with robotics companies that thought they had the next great thing ("A robot that could hit a wall," The Barker Portfolio, Sept. 5/12). However, I take issue with one point: Essentially all the technology companies in Silicon Valley, Boston, and Austin consume capital for the first few years, as there is no way for them to generate enough revenue to cover costs. Indeed, they often generate no revenue at all for two to three years. That's why the venture-capital industry exists: to provide capital -- that stuff you consume until you have enough revenue so that you no longer need to consume it. So there is nothing startling about the fact that the venture-capital community has kept iRobot afloat for recent years. Apple, Intel, Cisco: They all started out the same way.

Whether iRobot now can sustain revenue which will sustain profits is another question altogether. Once a technology company becomes profitable, it should be able to sustain itself without additional capital. I have no idea whether iRobot can pull it off. If it can't, that IPO price will go down pretty quickly.

Jonathan S. Holman, President

The Holman Group, Inc.

San Francisco

I can't believe BusinessWeek swallowed the junk they served you at Kraft Foods Inc. (KFT) ("Slimmer kids, fatter profits?" People, Sept. 5/12). Its supposedly healthy "pizza de resistance" has 36 grams of sugar. For comparison, a "fun-size" Butterfinger bar has 10 grams of sugar. In other words, Kraft's "healthy" meal has about four times as much sugar as a serving of candy.

C. Andrew Aligne, M.D.

Rochester, N.Y.

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