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The Roundup May 29

The good news first: the bad news is not as bad as we thought.

Revised commerce department figures showed on Friday that US gross domestic product declined by an annualised rate of 5.7 per cent in the first three months of the year, compared with last month’s estimate of 6.1 per cent. The decline was less severe than original projections due to slower liquidation of inventories and the narrowing trade gap. . . .

A bright note in Friday’s report was a dramatic improvement in corporate profits, which surged by 3.4 per cent to $1,307bn in the first quarter after plummeting by 16.5 per cent in the fourth quarter. The rise was fuelled by a spike in financial sector income, which soared by 94.9 per cent, as companies slashed costs and cut jobs. Compared with the same quarter last year corporate profits were off by 18 per cent.

(“US economy contracts at rate of 5.7%,” Financial Times, May 29) Of course the financial sector is doing well. In addition to cutting back on labor costs, they are, after all, getting “free” money from the Fed in the form of low- to no-interest loans. Even in the worst economy, any one of us would be thriving if we could borrow money for free and lend it out at interest. That being said, we are now starting to experience the “ripples” of the initial downturn as they affect commercial real estate, business-to-business. The good news seems to be that the contraction is starting to move out of the consumer sector.

Say hello to Wave.

Google Wave is a product, platform, and protocol that combines aspects of e-mail, instant messaging, wikis, and blogs to allow real-time and stored collaborative messaging. It’s being made available as a technology preview to conference attendees. Most of the code is open source, and Google hopes that developers will extend the system and run their own Wave servers as part of a federated network.

(“‘Google Wave’ May Challenge Microsoft SharePoint,” Information Week, May 28) Three reasons why Wave is in your future. 1.) If you though iPhone apps were cool, that was just the warm-up act. Because it is open source, tons of developers are going to jump on this and make it one of the most useful tools on the Internet. 2.) Spam this, doofus Because Wave participants must accept an invitation, that means that no unsolicited email will be crowding your doorway (currently 90% of all email are marketing emails). 3.) Say goodbye to a million logins Done right, Wave will integrate with all your social networks — no Twitter this, Facebook that. And it includes email and IM and whatever other million flowers bloom when the developers get their mitts on it.

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