[Paleopsych] NYT: Bill Gates as Anthropologist
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Sat Jun 25 14:41:32 UTC 2005
Bill Gates as Anthropologist
By PAUL B. BROWN
MARGARET MEAD. Louis Leakey. Bill Gates?
Grouping the founder of Microsoft among great anthropologists is
not as strange as it first sounds, according to the current issue of
Fortune Small Business.
In an effort to grow ever closer to its customers, Microsoft has hired
numerous social scientists, including anthropologists, to help it
understand the natives, who in this case are the small-business owners
who use its software.
The research is part of Microsoft's effort to produce its Office Small
Business Accounting software, although this approach to understanding
customers would seem applicable not only for other Microsoft products,
but also for just about every other company that sells a product.
Microsoft's idea behind going into the field to study customers is
simple, as Richard McGill Murphy writes in the article "Getting to
Know You": the better you understand how your customers work, the
easier it becomes to design products and services to meet their needs.
And the more you understand where the market is heading, the easier it
is to get there first.
Once upon a time, all Microsoft would have needed to do to understand
the small-business market would be to look inside its own offices in
Redmond, Wash. No more. Microsoft is now a company with $37 billion in
annual sales and 57,000 employees, and so the need to hire
Maybe Harrison Ford can play Mr. Gates in the movie.
LATER-LIFE PLANNING It isn't news that people are living longer in
But what is different is how they spend their money once they stop
working, according to this month's Financial Planning, a magazine
geared to financial advisers, which contends that there's a need to
rethink how retirements are financed.
Traditionally, financial planners have worried about making sure a
retiree's money lasts, assuming expenses will be uniform throughout
But that doesn't reflect reality writes Len Reinhart, a financial
planner, who says in his column "Managed Money" that people who retire
seem to go through three distinct stages and that expenses vary during
"As your clients enter the first phase of later life, they do all the
things that you planned for - they travel, make the gifts they want to
make, and try the new hobbies and activities they never had time for
when they were working," he writes.
When they fulfill, or get tired of their dreams, "most settle back
into the way of life that made them comfortable in their preretirement
years," Mr. Reinhart adds.
And in the final phase, health problems tend to limit activities - and
The moral is that investments need to be timed to make sure that
people can do what they want during each phase.
AMERICA FOR SALE "The same Chinese firms that have been crippling
American manufacturers with cut-rate goods could soon be viewed in an
entirely different light: As sugar daddies," Business 2.0 reports this
It turns out that Americans are directly responsible for a possible
Chinese buying spree on our shores. "Because Americans have spent $390
billion more on Chinese goods during the past three years than China
has spent on U.S. imports, China is flush with cash," Paul Kaihla
writes. This year, China could spend as much as $15 billion on
overseas acquisitions, says Don Straszheim, the former chief economist
for Merrill Lynch. That is triple what it spent from 1979 to 2002.
The article could not have been more timely; this week alone, there
were two big deals. First, the Haier Group, a Chinese manufacturer,
moved to acquire Maytag for $1.3 billion, surpassing a bid from a
group of American investors. Then the China National Offshore Oil
Corporation made a $18.5 billion unsolicited bid for Unocal. The
bid comes two months after Unocal agreed to be sold to Chevron for
$16.4 billion. The Lenovo Group's $1.75 billion purchase of
I.B.M.'s personal computer division closed last month.
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