■ Digital Formats
New Xbox may use HD DVD
Microsoft Corp chairman Bill Gates said the company's new Xbox 360 video-game console may use the next-generation DVD format developed by Toshiba Corp. Microsoft is a member of the DVD Forum, a group that promotes the HD DVD technology Toshiba helped develop as a standard for the new DVDs that can store more high-definition pictures and other content than existing DVDs. Sony Corp backs the competing Blu-ray disc format. "The initial shipments of Xbox 360 will be based on today's DVD format," Gates said at a media conference in Tokyo yesterday. "We are looking at whether future versions of DVD will incorporate an additional capability of an HD DVD player or something else," he said.
Vehicle tax mooted
China is considering linking a vehicle tax to exhaust emission levels that could run as high as 15 percent to 20 percent for cars with an engine capacity of over three liters, state press reported yesterday. "Those who buy cars with higher emissions will be taxed more heavily," Feng Fei (馮飛), director of the industry department at the State Council's Development and Research Center, was quoted by the China Daily as saying. Auto producers currently pay between 3 percent and 8 percent in tax before vehicles enter the market, but the tax should be levied directly on car buyers to encourage them to buy vehicles with lower emissions.
Electronics sales to grow
Intel Corp, Motorola Inc and rival US electronics makers in Malaysia expect sales this year to grow more than 10 percent, beating an industry estimate, aided by demand for personal computers and mobile phones. Exports by 18 US companies in Malaysia will probably increase 10.3 percent to 82.2 billion ringgit (US$22 billion), according to a survey by the Kuala Lumpur-based American Malaysian Chamber of Commerce. Sales rose 18.4 percent to 74.5 billion ringgit last year. The group said in November sales may expand 5 percent to 10 percent this year and 10.5 percent last year. "Despite oil prices, consumer spending is still resilient, there is growth of mobile and wireless devices," Wong Siew Hai, who heads the chamber's electronics industry group, said yesterday in Kuala Lumpur. "As prices continue to be lowered for mobile devices, more people will buy."
Business confidence grows
German business confidence improved slightly for the first time in five months this month, offering a small spark of hope for the eurozone's biggest economy, a key survey showed yesterday. The widely watched business climate index, calculated each month by the Ifo economic research institute, rose to 93.3 points this month from 92.9 points last month, Ifo said in a statement. The reading was exactly in line with analysts' expectations. "The index has risen slightly after declining in the preceding four months," Ifo president Hans-Werner Sinn said. "Companies are not only fractionally more confident about their current business, but are also noticeably more optimistic with regard to the outlook for the next six months," Sinn said. For its monthly survey, Ifo polls around 7,000 companies about their assessment of current business and their expectations for the next six months.