Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT) has decided to let a number of retailers offer its Surface tablet, perhaps to offset sales that never reached any real volume. Microsoft had adopted a strategy to make the product available on its website and in its stores — but nowhere else. While the new distribution decision may be based on the need to increase sales, Microsoft also may have observed that almost all other PC firms, including Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL), have bettered volume by wide product distribution. AllThingsD reports:
So far, Surface accounts for just a tiny fraction of overall Web traffic, though that isn’t that surprising considering its limited distribution. The tablet is also limited to running apps designed for Windows 8; a follow-on product, the Surface Pro, will be heavier and costlier, but will be able to run existing Windows apps thanks to its Intel processor.
No Small Business Confidence
Small business confidence, as measured by the Research Foundation of the National Federation of Independent Business, imploded in November. If small businesses account for most hiring in the United States, then the American economy is in for a jolt. NFIB chief economist Bill Dunkelberg wrote:
Something bad happened in November — and based on the NFIB survey data, it wasn’t merely Hurricane Sandy. The storm had a significant impact on the economy, no doubt, but it is very clear that a stunning number of owners who expect worse business conditions in six months had far more to do with the decline in small-business confidence. Nearly half of owners are now certain that things will be worse next year than they are now. Washington does not have the needs of small business in mind. Between the looming “fiscal cliff,” the promise of higher healthcare costs and the endless onslaught of new regulations, owners have found themselves in a state of pessimism. We are forced to ask: is this the new normal?
OPEC Oil Production for 2013
Most OPEC leaders said they plan to keep oil production unchanged in the new year. Demand may be off because of slowing economies around the world. That means crude prices may have a ways to drop — a net positive for businesses and consumers. Bloomberg reports:
While OPEC’s own forecasts show that it’s pumping more than consumers need, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, the United Arab Emirates, Angola, Ecuador and Libya have indicated that supply and demand are approximately in balance, suggesting that the group will stick to its official output target of 30 million barrels a day. Brent crude is heading for its highest-ever annual price, averaging $111.78 a barrel so far this year in London.
Douglas A. McIntyre