[Paleopsych] NYT: Bill Gates as Anthropologist

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Sat Jun 25 14:41:32 UTC 2005

Bill Gates as Anthropologist


    MARGARET MEAD. Louis Leakey. Bill Gates?

    Grouping the founder of [3]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
    each one.

    "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
    increase expenses.

    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 [4]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 [5]Unocal. The
    bid comes two months after Unocal agreed to be sold to Chevron for
    $16.4 billion. The [6]Lenovo Group's $1.75 billion purchase of
    [7]I.B.M.'s personal computer division closed last month.

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