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Unit 3 Micro: The Third Industrial Revolution

Saturday, April 21, 2012

This is well worth watching! It is an 8 minute discussion from the Economist which examines what is being called “The Third Industrial Revolution” - based around the digitisation of manufacturing processes. Concepts such as 3d printing and advanced robotics are discussed, as are concepts such as competitiveness, productivity and product personalisation. One possible consequence of these changes might be that high quality manufacturing may begin to move back from lower-wage economies such as China and back to economies like the USA.

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UK leads the world in commercial use of the internet

Monday, March 19, 2012

How important is the’ internet economy’ as a contributor to UK GDP? According to a study by the Boston Consulting Group, it contributes 8.3% of our GDP, which is a larger proportion than in any other of the G20 economies. The report’s author told the Today programme this morning that this was down to the UKs “great broadband infrastructure” and that British business has taken to the internet and is exporting around the world, “leading the world in e-commerce”. You can hear the interview with him here.

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The Economics of Climate Change - Stern 5 Years On

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Lord Nick Stern tonight gave the first of three lectures on the ethics and economics of climate change as the annual lecture series in honour of Lionel Robbins started at the LSE.

It is over five years since the publication of the Stern Report and much has happened in the intervening period. Stern however was at pains to emphasise that his core message remained undimmed, namely that the costs of inaction are enormous but the costs of early action to cut emissions are manageable. We have seen in recent years rapid technological change much of which is hugely encouraging in taking us closer to de-coupling the relationship between production and consumption and carbon emissions. But more is needed, Stern is arguing in these three lectures for a new industrial revolution, a deep set of changes to production processes and technologies that happens across every sector. The economics and politics of how progress might be made in moving towards a new revolution will be the focus of the second and third lectures.

LECTURE 1 - Tuesday 21 February 2012
What we risk and how we should cast the economics and ethics

LECTURE 2 - Wednesday 22 February 2012
How we can respond and prosper

LECTURE 3 - Thursday 23 February 2012
How we can get there: building national and international action

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Unit 3 Micro: Inside the iPhone and Intellectual Property

Sunday, February 19, 2012

This is a remarkable video featuring Geoff McCormick, director of UK design firm The Alloy that looks inside an iPhone at the component parts. Each and every iPhone contains thousands of patented components, ideas, designs and processes. Fantastic when teaching about the economics of intellectual property and the patent wars dominating the courts.

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Unit 4 Macro: Focus on India - World’s Cheapest Computer

Thursday, January 26, 2012

A few weeks ago came the announcement that an Indian business is finally set to launch the World’s cheapest tablet computer. This laptop device will sell for around 18 times less than the price of an iPad in London! How can a laptop be manufactured for less than $US 40?

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Unit 1 Micro: Can the UK Computer Games Industry Grow

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Britain is one of the world’s biggest exporters of creative products - from live TV shows and music to books, arts, architecture and films the economy has built up an enviable global reputation for excellence and a growing trade surplus to aid our balance of payments.

Computer games falls squarely into this category but, according to TIGA - the trade association representing the UK’s games industry - unless there is renewed government support, the future of this sector is at risk. TIGA claims that the British games industry is suffering a significant ‘brain drain’ as talented programmers and artists leave the country to work abroad.

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Unit 3 Micro: 3D Printing and a Manufacturing Revolution

Monday, January 23, 2012

Additive manufacturing or 3D printing is an emerging technology that takes product design data which provides a geometric representation of a product such as a pen and that data is then sent over to a machine that allows products to be manufactured ‘on the spot’ typically using additive materials in liquid or powder format.

This TED talk from Lisa Harouni (co-founder of Digital Forming) looks at examples of intricately designed products made using this new and increasingly affordable manufacturing technology. 3D machines can build structures, build replacement parts and parts within parts - the detailed resolution possible is incredible.

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Unit 1 Micro: Nano Technology and Energy Efficiency

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Today’s research in the labs can be the harbinger of terrific innovations that change the landscape of consumer product markets in the years ahead. The iPod Nano is a brand but the research behind nano-technology itself might bring about eye-watering improvements in the energy efficiency of devices that are part and parcel of our daily lives.

This brief news report from Al Jazeerah looks at innovation in nano technologies and what might be around the corner. Researchers at IBM have created the world’s smallest magnetic digital-storage device, using just 12 atoms to hold a single data bit of information.

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Unit 3 Micro: World’s Largest Solar Plant Opens

Monday, January 16, 2012

This autumn the world’s biggest solar plant power station opened in Spain. Comprising 600,000 parabolic mirrors, the Andasol 3 CSP plant is the size of 70 soccer fields and has 88km of piping. The economies of scale are huge and if solar power is going to work and be viable anywhere it is probably here or in North Africa.

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Unit 4 Macro: Competitive Advantage in Trade (Some Videos)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Here is a selection of short video clips that I use when teaching competitive advantage in markets and when introducing the factors that determine the competitiveness of UK producers in global markets. The focus here is on the UK economy but I will add some more videos to the blog as I work my way through this teaching topic.

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Unit 3 Micro: Is Facebook’s Social Network Dominance Eroding?

There is a wealth of interesting market share data available from the latest edition of Experian Hitwise, the regular analysis of changing activity across different social networks. The big winner in the latest figures appears to be You Tube - which according to Experian had its biggest ever month of traffic as 606 million UK Internet visits went to the website in December 2011. YouTube now accounts for 1 in every 4 visits to a social network in the UK and 1 in every 30 visits online.

Facebook’s share of visits to social networks has declined from 58% in December 2010 to 51% in December 2011. Does this tally with your own experience? Twitter’s share remains below 3% and Google + doesnt even make the top ten of social networks at the moment. More here from the Daily Telegraph.  Facebook’s share of UK social networking declines


Unit 1 Micro: Malfunction in In-Race Betting Market

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Bet Fair has built up an enviable reputation for running an efficient platform for in-race betting online. The platform gives punters the chance both to lay odds on a race and also to take a standard gamble on the result and the technology allows betting before and during the race. But events last week in Ireland have dealt a blow to the standing and reputation of the business as this Channel 4 news video amply demonstrates.

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Unit 2 Macro: Mobile Phones and African Economic Growth

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The increasing access to and usage of mobile phones is said by many development economists to be having a significant impact on growth and development in many African countries. A 2005 London Business School study reported recently in the Guardian found that for every additional 10 mobile phones per 100 people in a developing country, GDP rises by 0.5%.

The chart below tracks mobile phone ownership per 100 of the population for Sub Saharan Africa and also South Africa and Kenya

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Unit 3 Micro: Patent Wars- A Touchy Subject for Apple

Friday, December 16, 2011

This excellent news piece from Ben Cohen at Channel 4 looks at the increasingly aggressive patent war being fought by the manufacturers of the world’s leading mobile phone and tablet devices - the most profitable products in the digital economy. “Where once the giants (Google and Apple) competed on features, they now compete on patents.”

The news feature looks in particular at the intellectual property surrounding the slide-screen technology used by millions to unlock a device. Apple claims the IP to this but a video tracked back to twenty years ago suggests that developers were already thinking of something remarkably similar long before the iPhone came into existence. Can the makers of Android defend legal claims from Apple that their IP has been infringed? And who will end up paying for the enormous legal fees and possible extra licencing costs?


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Unit 3 Micro: Hope Bikes - A Commitment to Excellence

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Are you into your cycling? The huge expansion of interest in cycling in the UK from road racing through to BMX and mountain-biking has gone hand in hand with the fantastic success of British cyclists on the international stage. 2012 promises to be another strong year for the industry despite difficult economic conditions.

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Unit 3 Micro: Brand Loyalty in Mobile Phones

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Brand loyalty is hugely important in all kinds of industries and markets. The costs of acquiring a new customer vastly outweigh the expense of selling more to existing buyers and most of the mobile phone suppliers in this oligopolistic industry focus an enormous effort in building brand identity and brand loyalty to reduce the rate of customer churn (people who switch brands).

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Unit 3 Micro: Patent Wars might Stifle Innovation

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

In this six minute piece, Rory Cellan-Jones from the BBC looks at the surge in legal actions concerning alleged patent infringements. Intellectual property lawyers are making huge sums from the trend but small and medium sized enterprises especially in technology spaces might have less scope, freedom and resources to innovate as a result.

Unit 4 Macro: Richard Florida on the Great Reset

Saturday, November 05, 2011

What changes are produced by great economic upheavals? The financial and economic crisis prompts a rethinking of the assumptions about how businesses succeed and how economies operate. In a recent edition of the Global Business programme on BBC radio 4, Peter Day met Richard Florida, a renowned economic geographer who has written a new book The Great Reset. Here are some of the notes I jotted down from the programme:

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Unit 3 Micro: Time of Use Pricing for Energy

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

When is electricity demand highest in the UK? The answer comes at the end of the blog!

The UK government is committed to the rolling out of smart energy meters between now and the end of 2020. Millions of homes will have smart meters installed which track how much electricity you use and when you use it - the installation cost is approximately £350 per unit although this may come down with the utilisation of economies of scale. Smart meters will give consumers and the utility businesses minute-by-minute information about energy consumption and this could fast-forward the launch of time of use pricing tariffs for us all in the years ahead. It will mark a move away from flat-rate tariffs towards fully-fledged peak and off-peak pricing.

At the moment around one in ten households are on Economy 7 tariffs which offers lower prices for electricity used during off-peaking times in the late evenings and early mornings. Economy 7 seems to have been around for as long as CEEFAX and if you understand that you are giving your age away!

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Unit 3 Micro: Economies of Scale and the Kinect

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Here is an example of economies of scale in production. Microsoft’s motion-sensing camera the Kinect was one of the fastest-selling consumer electronics device in history when it was launched in November 2010. In a report on the FT’s technology blog, Dennis Durkin, Xbox chief financial officer, is quoted as saying that economies of scale have been the major factor driving down the unit price of Kinect from $30,000-$40,000 when it was under development two years ago to $150 now.

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Unit 1 Micro: Google Maps to Charge for Usage

Monday, October 31, 2011

Google has announced that heavy users of the Google maps application will now be charged - it will be interesting to see if this move from a zero price targeted at websites that make extensive use of the Google Maps coding will affect demand for the program.

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Unit 3 Micro: Drop Box and Freemium

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

For many students and teachers DropBox is the cloud file synching application of choice, I share study files with colleagues and pupils as my courses develop and evolve during the year. The statis revealing the expansion of the business are impressive.

The You Tube video (below) is from Forbes as they interview founder Drew Houston and here is a link to the full Forbes article.

Drop Box growth statistics are impressive. DropBox is zooming in on 50-million-users, a forecast revenue of $240 million in 2011 even with 96% of users paying nothing - a classic example of the freemium model in action!

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Unit 3 Micro: Amazon launches the Kindle Fire

Saturday, October 01, 2011

In the increasingly competitive and contestable market for tablet devices, leading online retailer Amazon has launched the Kindle Fire.


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Unit 3 Micro: Science Cities and External Economies of Scale

Thursday, September 29, 2011

This feature article from the BBC web site is essentially about the vital importance of high-knowledge industries in sustaining competitiveness and growth in a globalising world. Europe lags behind many emerging countries in terms of the resources devoted to science and technology, research and development and creative industries in particular.

But the article makes reference to the expansion of science cities - knowledge clusters that bring together higher education expertise and entrepreneurial zeal - their number continues to grow from California and Boston in the USA, Cambridge in the UK, Education City in Qatar, Science City in Zurich and Digital Media City in Seoul. All good examples to use of the commercial leverage from external economies of scale in high-tech industries.

Unit 3 Micro: You Sue, I Sue - Patent Wars Explode!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The scale of the legal battles between different businesses in the mobile industry might just be unprecedented. This nifty graphic from the iDownload blog provides an overview of the complex web of litigation - a lawyer’s dream! But if Samsung succeed in delaying the release of the iPhone5 then what might become of their reputation with millions of consumers worldwide? An Indian Summer hat tip to Graham Carter for flagging up this visual.

Slicing up the Apple - globalisation graphic

Monday, August 22, 2011

This lovely graphic from the Economist gives a visual picture of some of the forces of globalisation at play in the manufacture of the iPhone. I was particularly surprised by the contribution to components by Samsung, which is also one of Apple’s main competitors in the Smart Phone market. There are also some useful stats underneath the graphic which would be great in a lesson where concentration ratios and market structures are being introduced.

Slicing up the Apple - globalisation graphic

This lovely graphic from the Economist gives a visual picture of some of the forces of globalisation at play in the manufacture of the iPhone. I was particularly surprised by the contribution to components by Samsung, which is also one of Apple’s main competitors in the Smart Phone market. There are also some useful stats underneath the graphic which would be great in a lesson where concentration ratios and market structures are being introduced.

Unit 3 Micro: Motorsport Valley and External Economies of Scale

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The occasion of the 2011 British Grand Prix at Silverstone in Northamptonshire is an opportunity to showcase the extraordinary growth and success of the motorsport industry in the UK. It is a classic example of the benefits that can flow from external economies of scale, and also of the way in which genuine competitive advantage in the global economy can be built and nurtured.

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Unit 3 Micro: New Business Models in a Digital Age

Monday, July 11, 2011

Here is a link is to an article from the Wall Street Journal Blog - written by Don Tapscott, author of Wikinomics. He provides five examples of industries facing structural challenges in the digital age and how a revamped business model based around collaboaration might pay dividends - he is an interesting guy to follow for potential E&M and Economics students

The Future of Food Retailing? Tesco in South Korea

Monday, June 27, 2011

Here is a fascinating short video on the techniques and tactics adopted by Tesco as they sought to become South Korea’s number one offline and online food retail store.

Unit 3 Micro: Economies of Scale in Solar Power

Friday, May 27, 2011

How about this for economies of scale in the renewable energy industry? A new photovoltaic park has opened in Les Mées in France, By the end of 2011, solar panels will cover 200 hectares and produce around 100MW, making it the biggest solar array in France.

Some light relief from revision - this week’s economics TV

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Here is a selection of this week’s TV (and a bit of radio) that seems to have some good economics content and might provide a welcome, yet useful, break from revision.

Sunday 15th May: BBC4 8pm, ‘The Secret Life of the National Grid’ - could be worth a look in terms of economies of scale, network externalities, economic growth and the importance of infrastructure

Sunday 15th May: Radio 4 8pm, ‘The Bankers and the Bottom Billion’ - possibly some useful bits in terms of development economics

Monday 16th May: BBC1 8.30pm, ‘Panorama’ - this week’s investigative documentary looks at the illegal trade in waste electronic products following the introduction of regulations governing how we can dispose of such things - probably very good in terms of analysing a type of government failure

Monday 16th May: BBC1 9pm, ‘The Street That Cut Everything’ - looks rather entertaining as well as providing a bit of an insight into topics such as government spending on public goods and goods that generate positive externalities

Monday 16th May: BBC4 9pm, ‘The Golden Age of Canals’ - whilst at first glance this may not seem too appealing, I suspect there are some interesting nuggets in terms of networks and infrastructure spending, as well as a look at why canals fell into obsolence due to the invention of the combustion engine (some creative destruction here!)

Tuesday 17th May: BBC3 9pm, ‘Secrets of the Superbrands: Technology’ - a good look at how monopolies put up strategic barriers to entry in terms of branding and smart use of technology to achieve consumer loyalty

Thursday 19th May: ITV1 7.30pm, ‘The True Cost of a Car’ - a look at the impact on motorists of rising fuel prices and insurance premiums, which will bring in cross-elasticity of demand in a roundabout way

Thursday 19th May: Radio 4, 8pm, ‘The Report’ - a closer look at the operation of supermarkets and why there is opposition to their expansion (useful for looking at the impact of rising market power)

Friday 20th May: BBC2 7pm, ‘Wind Farm Wars’ - probably very useful for those sitting AS Unit 1 this summer in terms of negative and positive externalities of production, and the ins and outs of cost-benefit analysis

Hopefully there’s some light relief in there for everyone! All of the BBC programmes will be available on iPlayer for several days after they’ve been broadcast.

A2 Micro: Innovation in Markets

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

This is a revision presentation covering aspects of innovation in markets. A PDF version of the presentation designed as a handout can be downloaded here.

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Smartphones and Creative Destruction

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Is the multi-function and ubiquitous smartphone one of the best examples of creative destruction. This article “10 Things Killed by the Smartphone” points to a clutch of devices and products whose demand has been affected by the mass volumes of data-heavy smartphones that now dominate the market.

MP3 Players
Nintendo 3DS and Sony PSP
Point-and-Shoot Cameras
Personal Video Players
Voice Recorders
Portable GPS Navigation Devices
Personal Digital Assistant (PDA)
iPod Nano
Paper Maps
Telephone Directory Assistance

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A new strategy for promoting growth & development?

Friday, April 08, 2011

I’ve just read this fascinating economic development story on the BBC website- had to check it wasn’t an old April Fools prank, but apparently not…

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Information Empires and Monopolies

Saturday, April 02, 2011

This edited eleven minute video from the RSA explores the rise of information monopolies - from the telephone to films and now the internet. Leading technological historian Timothy Wu exposes the battle for the soul of the internet. he has some pertinent things to say about how the preferences of consumers (a growing desire and willingness to pay for higher quality, filtering, reliability, brand) might actually reinforce the natural tendencies of industries that start out open, flourishing and diversified to consolidate into a controlling monopoly or an oligopoly.

Will Google and Apple come to dominate to a much greater degree? For Wu one of the signs to look out for with these types of companies is whether the balance tips between innovation and defensive behaviour.


Innovation: Google’s Driverless Car

Thursday, March 31, 2011

A four minute gem from TED!

Timetric: Internet Browser Market Shares

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Timetric update the latest figures for market share in the web browser market - they are shown in the chart below. Internet Explorer continues the long slow slide as rival browsers become more popular and web users reveal their preferences!

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Patent Box or Innovation Box as Innovation Stimulant?

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

The UK coalition government does not yet have a growth strategy worth the name but they have invested plenty of capital in the idea of a Patent Box. This involves a lower corporation tax on profits drawn from patented products) and is a supply-side policy to make UK an attractive location for innovative industries. One proposal is that royalties and other profits from patented products and technologies would be taxed at just 10 per cent.

But many economists argue that this is at best an ineffective way of lifting the amount of research and development in the British economy. They look instead to the Netherlands where an Innovation Box has had a significant impact - it reflects the view that patents are only a small part of the innovation process - you dont necessarily have to patent an idea to make small scale innovations commercially viable.

Channel 4 news tonight visited Sandwich in Kent where the Pfizer research and development facility is set to close.

Information Failures: Broadband Market

“Confusion is rife and millions of people are not getting what they have been sold” - a damming indictment of the retail broadband market in the UK exposed here by Rory Cellan Jones in a BBC news article and supporting video clip detailing information failures regarding high speed broadband and the dubious ‘up to x mb/s’ adverts that typically only 3% of UK customers experience…a stronger hand from OFCOM is needed to address this information issue. A hat tip to Henry Wingfield for spotting the article.

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Unique user numbers at MySpace collapse

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

How many students still use MySpace? This social network owned by News Corporation looks to be in terminal decline to judge by the sharp and dramatic fall off in unique users in the United States. The labour force is being cut in half and News Corp looks set to end up with huge losses from its ill-fated acquisition of MySpace - Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp bought MySpace for $580m.  MySpace’s revenues have fallen sharply to less than $350m in 2010 this year, down from $470m in 2009 and way short of the $1 billion target set by Murdoch on purchasing the business.


Apply - Vertical Integration and iPad Pricing

Monday, February 21, 2011

A half term hat tip to Henry Wingfield for spotting this super article in Wired magazine. It discusses how Apple is able to keep the iPad at the $500 price point and looks at how the company is vertically integrated and the importance of its retail stores. Have a read here.

World’s Most Innovative Companies

Thursday, February 17, 2011

This is perfect for examples to draw on when teaching and learning about dynamic efficiency in markets - it is a subjective list but the Fast Company has produced a selection of the fifty most innovative companies in the world adding a profile for each. According to the introduction, the selected businesses are non-dogmatic and they are willing to fail. A great resource and one that I will return to. Below we have added some of recent blog posts on aspects of the economic and business drivers of innovation

Government has a role in building growth

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The government retains a crucial role in helping to shape and sustain the eco-system needed to foster innovation and growth. This is one of the key arguments of Will Hutton in his piece in the Observer today, essentially a review of a new book by Tyler Cowen. “Invention and innovation, we are discovering, are much too important to be left to the tender mercies of markets.” More here

Tracking Market Share in Web Browsers

Friday, February 04, 2011

The concept of market share is an important one in economics.  But what data can teachers use other than the (slightly) tired example of Tesco, Asda et al in the UK supermarket market?  One approach is to conduct a piece of primary market research amongst the class to see what their preferred Internet browser is and then to compare the market share calculated from student preferences with the overall global browser market…

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James Dyson on Innovation

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

This is a must read article for every student who wants to appreciate the impact of innovation on competitiveness and growth. Writing in the Business Guardian, James Dyson argues that “For me, the UK economy shouldn’t be built entirely on the City of London or the next digital fad. We need substance – patentable exports. They bring new money into our coffers. And what will generate economic growth is not just talk of spending cuts, but creating the right environment for research and invention.” Dyson is a strong supporter of tax credits and lower corporation tax for research and development projects and also for science and maths graduate teachers to be paid more.

More here: Innovation: Britain’s other deficit

Tories look to Dyson on hi-tech economy (BBC news video)

Apple and Goldman Sachs - Worlds Apart

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Here is a fantastic piece from John Cassidy - author of Why Markets Fail - a simply terrific investigation of the different ways that we can measure the rate of return for different business activities. Apple employees earn a lot less than Goldmans’, despite generating a much higher return.

Consumer surplus from the web!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A hat tip to Tim Mercer from Ashcombe School for spotting this resource - an interesting article from this month’s McKinsey quarterly looking at the consumer surplus that currently exists in the world of ‘free’ on the Internet and how companies might seek to ‘monetize’.

Roger Harrabin - Environmental Economics Videos

I am a big fan of the journalistic work of Roger Harrabin at the BBC. Here is a nap hand selection of five recent video pieces on environmental issues focusing on emissions issues and policies in developed and developing countries.

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Firefox overtakes IE in the EU Browser Market

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

The Telegraph reports here that Mozilla’s Firefox has overtaken Internet Explorer as the preferred browser for internet users in Europe. And Google’s Chrome is fast gaining a strong foothold in this intensely competitive market. The market share data suggests an oligopoly but we know that despite the dominance of a small number of web browsers, the reality is that competition is fierce and millions of web users have their own quite strong preferences!

Source: StatCounter Global Stats - Browser Market Share

Lots to think about here in terms of economic efficiency - not least dynamic efficiency and innovation in the market.

And also the impact of competition policy in action .... as the article says at the end

“Since early 2010, Microsoft has offered millions of European customers that use its Windows software the option of using 12 different internet browsers. This followed an agreement in December 2009, when European Union regulators accepted Microsoft’s pledge to give consumers better access to rival browsers, ending a long antit-trust dispute.”

A hat tip to Ian Goff for spotting the article. If you want to keep an eye on what is happening to market share on a daily basis this is the link to the StatCounter site


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