National / International News
First up, we talk to Susan Schmidt, Managing Director at Mesirow Financial in Chicago about signs that the U.S. economy is gathering strength. And it's been the man-bites-dog business story of the summer: the company where they employees didn't loath the boss, they liked him to the point they effectively shut down the business after he was ousted in a family feud for control. Today, at the New England grocery chain Market Basket, those employees and supportive customers got what they were looking for. Arthur T. Demoulis is coming back as CEO after his reported $1.5 billion buyout offer was accepted. Plus, how about an iPad the size of a bathroom mirror? Published reports suggest that what may be on the way is a 13-incher, big as a modest laptop.
Rumors are swirling that Apple has a bigger iPad in the works. Bloomberg reports that the new tablet's screen would be nearly 13 inches diagonally — as big as some laptops.
Apple's iPads have been losing market share to cheaper, smaller smart phones, according to the research firm International Data Corporation or IDC.
“Launching a bigger iPad would help them gain a lot more revenue,” says Jitesh Ubrani an analyst at IDC.
Ubrani says businesses, schools and government offices increasingly use tablets and might like a bigger iPad screen. He says in the second quarter, 16 percent of tablet sales went to those groups.
Apple recently announced a partnership with IBM to offer businesses more applications and services. Van Baker, research vice president in Mobility at Gartner Inc., says a bigger iPad might be good for companies that want to put spreadsheets or documents on the device.
“There are productivity type applications like spreadsheet applications — things more on the content creation side than on the content consumption side — that would make sense to have a bigger screen,” he says.
Apple couldn't be reached for comment. A bigger iPad would theoretically compete with Microsoft's biggest Surface tablet. But analysts say the Windows system has not been popular on tablets.
The United Way for Southeastern Michigan, which oversees the Detroit Water Fund, is currently helping around 200 households with a payment plan that covers 25 percent of a delinquent resident's bill, while the resident pays the rest. A recent $2 million award from the Michigan Health Endowment will help the fund assist more people.
"We anticipate we'll be able to help about 6,000 customers," says Doug Plant, the vice president of operations for the United Way for Southeastern Michigan.
Another campaign, the crowdfunded "Detroit Water Project," is connecting donors directly with people who need help. The project's website says it has 7,000 donors.
Greg Eno, a public affairs specialist with Detroit Water and Sewerage says his office has only one goal. "The theme right now is keep the water on," says Eno. "And whether that's through donations, through our payments plans or through any other source of funding, whatever it takes, that's the mission."
The Federal Communications Commission is thinking about eliminating what’s known as the "sports blackout rule," which says NFL games can’t be broadcast locally unless they’re sold out 72 hours in advance.
The debate pits government authority against NFL brawn.
The NFL likes things the way they are: The blackout rule fills stadiums, and fans – even teams — will buy up extra tickets to make sure the stadium is full.
If not, the game can’t be broadcast within a 75-mile radius.
Hall of Famer Lynn Swann is the NFL’s spokesman in the blackout rule showdown.
The Pittsburgh Steelers Super Bowl champ says the NFL could move its games to cable TV if the blackout rule were repealed. The rule allows everyone to watch NFL games right now, he says.
“And it protects a model that allows it to be over the air and free for everyone when the games are sold out,” he explains.
Also on Swann’s side: the Congressional Black Caucus. Caucus members wrote a letter to the FCC, saying minority fans who can’t afford cable rely on free TV broadcasts of games.
“In my view, that argument doesn’t hold water for a couple of different reasons,” says Ajit Pai, an FCC commissioner.
He's on the other side of the line of scrimmage. Pai is demanding that the blackout rule be repealed. He says the NFL is bluffing, and would never take games off free TV because the broadcasts are so profitable.
“Taking the product off the air is simply cutting off your nose to spite your face, ” he says.
Sports economists have been watching anxiously from the sidelines.
Rob Baade teaches economics at Lake Forest College. He thinks we should use economics to decide the fate of the blackout rule.
Do the benefits of the rule outweigh the costs? He says no, it’s not fair to require fans to shell out hundreds of dollars to go to a game, and black it out if they don’t.
“And so, $75 a ticket, add to that parking, concessions and paraphernalia, I mean it’s a very expensive family outing,” he maintains.
The FCC could vote on whether to repeal the blackout rule as soon as this fall.
In the meantime, you could just listen to the game on the radio. The blackout rule only applies to TV.
If you want to disrupt higher education, you’ve gotta look the part.
So when the team at HarvardX, the university’s online learning initiative, began setting up its new offices in Cambridge, down came the walls and the cubicles, in came the long tables and shared work spaces. And out went the landlines.
Or most of them anyway.
“The space was developed de novo and it was meant to have a kind of start-up feel,” said Michael Patrick Rutter, a spokesman for HarvardX.
Instead of traditional desk phones, employees at HarvardX use their own cell phones and collect $50 per month from the university to help cover the bills.
As Justin Reich, a 36-year-old researcher at HarvardX, sees it, they’re just embracing the obvious.
“I think it’s more convenient,” he said. “I probably would have just given people my cell phone number anyway.”
The Great Landline Purge started years ago, when colleges began disconnecting dorm-room phones. Americans have also been ditching their relics. About 40 percent of American households were wireless-only at the end of 2013, up from 10 percent in 2006, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
When Harvard’s IT department set out a strategic plan in January, one of its main goals was to reduce use of “legacy phone infrastructure.” (Apparently that’s what we’re calling landlines now.)
“The landline system that the university uses is older and rates are increasing,” said Kevin Donovan, a spokesman for Harvard IT.
Donovan says the university isn’t forcing employees to dump their landlines. It’s already happening. And, true to form, Harvard has collected the data to back it up.
The number of calls from Harvard desk phones dropped 40 percent from 2009 to 2013, from more than 6.5 million to fewer than 4 million, according to the IT department.
Which means that most faculty and staff, should their department choose to follow HarvardX’s lead and dispense with office phones, are likely to respond like Reich did — with a shrug and a monthly expense report.
As the university move-in season gets into full swing, many freshmen will be meeting their roommates for the first time. At the University of Massachusetts Lowell, the housing department is using a service called Room Sync to streamline the process.
Click the media player above to hear Matt Austin, Associate Director for Resident Life at UMass Lowell, in conversation with Marketplace Tech host Ben Johnson.
The software asks prospective roommates a series of lifestyle questions, allowing them to filter others by majors and other lifestyle preferences. They can then view other freshmen and choose among a list of possible roommates.
Students can communicate through Facebook accounts, and send roommate requests similar to “friend requests.”
According to Austin, students that don’t use the site request a new roommate 8% of the time, while those who use it and find a match are only 1% likely to change roommates.
“Students that continue with the same roommate throughout the freshman year are more likely to return to housing in their sophomore year, which keeps them more engaged on campus,” says Austin, also citing statistics showing on-campus students receive higher grades.
While Austin admitted that the software may reduce the chances of students living with a roommate markedly different from themselves, he argued that the makeup of the floors and residences as a whole would still provide the opportunity for that cross-pollination of experiences.