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You may have noticed the lines at home-improvement stores getting longer or heard the whirring of buzz saws in your neighborhood. After years of economic recession and housing-market malaise, people are starting to fix up their homes again.

According to an April 15 report from the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University, annual spending on remodeling is expected to accelerate this year, with nearly 5% growth over 2009. "This year could produce the first annual spending increase for the industry since 2006," the peak of the housing boom, says center director Nicolas P. Retsinas.

But the forces driving today's action couldn't be more different from those during the boom. Back then, people wanted to renovate their places so that they could trade up to bigger homes, or because their home equity was soaring and they wanted to reinvest some of the spoils.

Now, the opposite is happening: Many people who bought during the boom years are accepting the reality that they won't soon be swapping up for a sybaritic spread. Their mortgages may remain above water, but after years of falling home prices, their equity is so low that the transaction costs of buying a new house would leave little for a down payment.

In short, they are stuck.

"People have seen their down payments kind of wiped out," says Harvard economist Jeremy Stein. "They are locked into their house. They can't really move, even if they thought the other house was cheap and a good deal."

So these people are making their homes more comfortable for a longer-than-expected stay. Setting aside old calculations of how much a particular improvement will add to resale value, they are making smaller tweaks that can make a big difference in livability. You might call it "psychological return on investment."

Nowadays, say real-estate agents and contractors, smaller projects like updating kitchens and baths and humble attic-bedroom conversions are more popular, while two-story master suites and $100,000 kitchen blowouts are decidedly out of fashion. Hidden improvements like insulation also are on the rise, as people realize they won't be able to pass on their drafts, leaks and other problems to the next guy. Tax credits that expire in 2010 are enticing people to make energy improvements, too.

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The kitchen is still king .

LAS VEGAS -- Americans want smaller houses and they are willing to strip some of yesterday's most popular rooms -- such as home theaters -- from them in order to accommodate changing lifestyles, consumer experts told audiences at the International Builders Show here this week.


"This is a traumatic time in this country and the future isn't something we're 100% sure about now either. What's left? The answer for most home buyers is authenticity," said Heather McCune, director of marketing for Bassenian Lagoni Architects in Park Ridge, Ill.

Buyers today want cost-effective architecture, plans that focus on spaces and not rooms and homes that are designed 'green' from the outset," she said. The key for home builders is "finding the balance between what buyers want and the price point."

For many buyers, their next house will be smaller than their current one, said Carol Lavender, president of the Lavender Design Group in San Antonio, Texas. Large kitchens that are open to the main family living area, old-fashioned bathrooms with clawfoot tubs and small spaces such as wine grottos are design features that will resonate today, she said.


"What we're hearing is 'harvest' as a home theme -- the feeling of Thanksgiving. It's all about family togetherness -- casual living, entertaining and flexible spaces," Lavender said.

Paul Cardis, CEO of AVID Ratings Co., which conducts an annual survey of home-buyer preferences, said there are 10 "must" features in new homes.

1. Large Kitchens, With an Island

"If you're going to spend design dollars, spend them where people want them -- spend them in the kitchen," McCune said. Granite countertops are a must for move-up buyers and buyers of custom homes, but for others "they are on the bubble," Cardis said.

2. Energy-Efficient Appliances, High-Efficiency Insulation and High Window Efficiency

Among the "green" features touted in homes, these are the ones buyers value most, he said. While large windows had been a major draw, energy concerns are giving customers pause on those, he said. The use of recycled or synthetic materials is only borderline desirable.

3. Home Office/Study

People would much rather have this space rather than, say, a formal dining room. "People are feeling like they can dine out again and so the dining room has become tradable," Cardis said. And the home theater may also be headed for the scrap heap, a casualty of the "shift from boom to correction," Cardis said.

4. Main-Floor Master Suite

This is a must feature for empty-nesters and certain other buyers, and appears to be getting more popular in general, he said. That could help explain why demand for upstairs laundries is declining after several years of popularity gains.

5. Outdoor Living Room

The popularity of outdoor spaces continues to grow, even in Canada, Cardis said. And the idea of an outdoor room is even more popular than an outdoor cooking area, meaning people are willing to spend more time outside.

6. Ceiling Fans

7. Master Suite Soaker Tubs

Whirlpools are still desirable for many home buyers, Cardis said, but "they clearly went down a notch," in the latest survey. Oversize showers with seating areas are also moving up in popularity.

8. Stone and Brick Exteriors

Stucco and vinyl don't make the cut.

9. Community Landscaping, With Walking Paths and Playgrounds

Forget about golf courses, swimming pools and clubhouses. Buyers in large planned developments prefer hiking among lush greenery.

10. Two-Car Garages

A given at all levels; three-car garages, in which the third bay is more often then not used for additional storage and not automobiles, is desirable in the move-up and custom categories, Cardis said.

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by Steve Kerch
Thursday, February 4, 2010

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雲端運算(cloud computing)這東西很妙,你拉十個人來問可能會得到十一種答案。各行各業對它的解讀不盡相同,我看到最寬鬆的定義是「使用者可無腦的經由網路得到他們想要的服務」,我相信這種對於雲端的定義肯定也相當無腦。


較嚴謹的定義為「使用底層的分散式運算技術建構出上層可透過網路提供使用者自行達到快速部署及按使用量計費的服務方式」,唸完這句話也差不多該去喝個水透個氣了。雲端這種行話(buzz word)在此我也不想多作定義,免得擋人財路。


不過大家都有的雲端服務共識分為三個層次:基礎設施即服務(Infrastructure as a Service , IaaS)、平台即服務(Platform as a service , PaaS)和軟體即服務(Software as a Service , SaaS)。簡單來說就像經由網路這條通道分別提供使用者作業系統平台、API工具或是應用程式來使用的服務。









但身為進階級的玩家怎麼可以被框架給限制住呢?以雲端服務的三個層級來看,IaaS提供的彈性最大,業者你給我我想要的作業系統平台,剩下的我自己來搞。目前地球上規模最大的IaaS供應商,則莫過於Amazon Web Services(AWS)所提供的EC2(Elastic Compute Cloud)。大家對於Amazon肯定不陌生,Amazon.com為美國最大的一家網路電子商務公司,旗下最有名的就是亞馬遜網路書店。



Eucalyptus的三層架構:Cloud Controller、Cluster Controller和Node Controller。


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美國中部時間, 五月二日 ,早上八點三十分,奧馬哈(Omaha)Qwest運動場,三萬五千多名股東,正出席股神巴菲特(Warren Buffett)的波克夏‧海瑟威控股公司(Berkshire Hathaway)年會。

今年的股東會,出席人數最多,但同時也是巴菲特接掌波克夏四十四年以來,績效最差的一年:每股淨值跌至歷史新低,股價也在七個月跌掉近三○%,連波克夏自己持有二○%股權的子公司——穆迪信評也「大義滅親」,將波克夏信評連降兩級,由Aaa降為Aa2。《經濟學人》(The Economist)更指稱,「(波克夏的)信用風險比俄羅斯還高。」









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【2009/05/19 經濟日報 - 記者黃仁謙】

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One of the largest manufacturers of mobile homes plans to enter the market of environmentally friendly, prefab homes with a model that is seriously affordable.

It looks like a house you'd order from Ikea. It sounds like a house designed by Apple. The I-House just might be the future — well, one future, anyway — of the housing market.

Clayton Homes, based in Maryville, Tenn., is one of America's largest manufacturers of mobile homes and prefabricated housing. So when President Kevin Clayton wanted to go green, he gave his architects a free hand, instructing them to incorporate as many green products as possible and to produce a home that was super energy-efficient — the only constraint was that it had to be something that could be built in existing facilities.

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老人多 聚焦醫療照護

一般人對飛利浦的印象,大多停留在這是一家生產Magnavox 電視機、Norelco刮鬍刀和飛利浦白熱燈泡的公司,但飛利浦積極想擺脫舊有形象,轉型為醫療設備與發光二極體(LED)燈泡的科技大廠。飛利浦執行長柯慈雷說:「我們是一家科技公司。如今我們也把焦點集中在醫療照護市場。」財務長西維格納解釋說:「全球老化和慢性病增加,將帶動我們的業務。」

飛利浦要走出過往、迎向未來,賣掉「賠錢貨」不失為一好方法。2008 年4月,該公司宣布將美國和加拿大電視業務讓售給日本船井電機公司,在澳洲和紐西蘭的電視銷售也已結束。此外,飛利浦2009年元旦起就要退出美國DVD、藍光(Blu-ray)和家庭劇院環繞音響市場。




環保風 收購LED照明

飛利浦也大舉收購照明燈具業者,以表明對此產業前景的信心。該公司2007年6月間以7.14億美元併購美國照明系統業者Color Kinetics,2008年元月再以27億美元買下北美照明燈具業者Genlyte集團,進一步鞏固其於下一代燈具市場的領導地位。


【2009/02/12 經濟日報 - 編譯廖玉玲/綜合外電】

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金融海嘯重創香港,失業率爬升到3.8%,第七屆「香港設計營商周」,在低迷的景氣之下,依然於2008 年12 月上旬如期展開。



這次香港設計營商周的伙伴國家是荷蘭,現場隨處可見亮橘色的鬱金香圖底,印著白色「open mind」字樣,正如荷蘭設計給人的鮮明印象,讓人暫時忘卻金融海嘯的沈悶。

「荷蘭設計(Dutch Design)向來以創新、前衛、富現代感與別具幽默感,在全球設計界獨樹一格。」荷蘭外貿部長法蘭克‧辛斯克(Frank Heemskerk)一語道出荷蘭設計的風格語言。他此行特別率領設計相關產業及教育領域、近280 人前來香港,據稱是有史以來,由荷蘭官方所帶領,最龐大的海外代表團。


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無薪假、失業率攀升,我的下一份工作在哪裡?綠領(Green collar)可能是答案。




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To fill jobs in clean tech and help tomorrow's business leaders solve our environmental problems, schools are ramping up sustainability programs—inside the classroom and out

By Francesca Di Meglio

At one time, business schools "greened" their MBA curriculums in response to a new wave of students for whom sustainability was more than just a catchphrase. It was a core value.

That time, however, has passed. Today, business schools are continuing to ramp up their efforts for green curricula, but for a much different reason. In a world beset by economic woes as well as environmental problems— from the scarcity of natural resources to climate change—sustainability represents one of the few potential bright spots in an otherwise dismal recruiting environment.

Job Opportunities Spur Green Coursework

"Jobs might be drying up on Wall Street," says Catherine Wolfram, associate professor of business administration at UC-Berkeley's Haas School of Business, "but not in the clean technology sector."

The result: innovations such as the Sustainable Entrepreneurship by Nature course at Babson College where students turn to the natural world to solve vexing business problems, perhaps obtaining inspiration for a windmill design from the shape of a dolphin's fin. Such an assignment would not have appeared in typical MBA syllabi just a few years ago.

Many business school administrators and faculty say that these curriculum changes are a necessity if graduates are going to find jobs in a global economy where business is increasingly expected to solve the world's problems, or at least not make them worse. "You have to use entrepreneurial thinking to solve problems without taking away from the environment," says Candida Brush, professor of entrepreneurship at Babson College. "You have to do it. It's not a choice."

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1997年,聯合國氣候變遷綱要公約組織(UN Framework Convention on Climate Change,UNFCCC)通過《京都議定書》,規範主要工業國家溫室氣體排放減量,希望簽約的141國在2012年時,降低二氧化碳的排放量到7%的水準,但是排放量名列前茅的美國並未簽署。

西雅圖串聯141個城市 簽自己的《京都議定書》

西雅圖市政府Climate Action Now協調員史密斯(Rachel R. Smith)指出,西雅圖市長尼可(Greg Nickel)於2002年當選,2005年遇上雨水不足,西雅圖缺水,尼可認為節能之外,必須投注綠色經濟發展。但他始終得不到聯邦政府協助,於是他串聯了141個城市簽署與上述《京都議定書》一樣內容的《全美市長氣候保護協議》(U.S Mayors Climate Protection Agreement)。


然而深層看待西雅圖的領先行動,這絕不只是市長的個人認知,真實力量來自當地市民對環保的認知,並與歐盟國家一樣,早已投注綠色經濟30年。他們的核心價值為何?西雅圖工務局氣候變遷部門主管弗萊明(Paul Fleming)指出,不只西雅圖,全球都市都要思考如何「在人口增加及都市發展的同時,不增加不透水地表」;「未來10年,每年要做到減少1到2個百分點不透水地表。」

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The 2008 StartupNation Home-Based 100 list is now in, and one thing is clear: Starting and running a business from home is more mainstream than ever.

The number of contestants in the Home-Based 100 tripled, numbering in the thousands. Votes in support of those businesses increased tenfold, up to a quarter of a million.

Part of that is because our list is becoming better known, of course. But it's also a sign that what home businesses do is of immense interest to more and more Americans, as the do-it-yourself boom expands.

Indeed, more than half of all U.S. businesses are now run from kitchen tables, extra bedrooms, basements and garages. Home-based businesses make a $530 billion contribution to the nation's economy each year.

And for many Americans, starting up at home has become a necessity. What appeared to be simply another economic downturn a year ago, when we compiled the first Home-Based 100, has devolved into a far more dire situation. Major economic giants, including Lehman Bros. (LEHMQ, news, msgs), American International Group (AIG, news, msgs) and General Motors (GM, news, msgs), have shown their vulnerability. As corporate titans lay people off by the thousands, many Americans are being forced to find new ways to make a living.

Their criteria? Inexpensive to start. Immediate results.

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北京麗池卡爾頓酒店 © 麗池卡爾頓酒店管理公司





這些只是我們從評選出2008/2009年度全球頂級豪華酒店榜單的 Forbes Traveler 400 旅遊專家評委會那裏選取的三條評論。你一定很想知道他們所說的是哪家酒店,對吧?難就難在這兒。



因此,我們從各行各業請來79位豪華旅遊專家組成了一個評委會。Arianna Huffington 是一位著名的作家兼發行商,並曾是加州州長候選人,而與她同為評委會成員的 Todd English 則是一位名廚和餐館老闆。Adam Tihany 是一位有名的室內裝潢設計師與建築師,負責全球幾家知名酒店的建設;而 Tony Wheeler 是《Lonely Planet》旅行指南發行商 Lonely Planet 的聯合創始人。

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紐約時報說,大學生現在變得更精,他們希望在最短的時間,賺最多的錢,而從事避險基金 (hedge fund)或投資銀行等行業,是達成此目標的捷徑。讀兩年企管研究所取得碩士,對精明的大學生而言是一種浪費。不但浪費時間,也浪費金錢。





【2008/08/08 聯合報】

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In the world's most expensive property markets, $1.5 million still doesn't go very far despite some softening in real estate prices

How much house can you buy for $1.5 million? Depending on where you look, it might not be very much.

Despite global economic concerns, the credit squeeze, and rising commodity prices, properties in the world's most expensive neighborhoods are still commanding ferocious premiums. While $1.5 million in Cleveland or Tampa would probably purchase a substantial house, with four bedrooms, a multicar garage, and maybe even such amenities as a swimming pool and media room, in London's Belgravia or on Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, it would buy you little more than a glorified shoebox.

Using data from London-based real estate group Knight Frank, BusinessWeek.com identified the 20 most expensive markets in the world and what you can buy in those cities' prime areas with $1.5 million. In London, where at $6,191 the average price per square foot is the highest in the world, your $1.5 million would buy only a small studio in the smartest parts of town. In Venice, on the other hand, despite limited building space, your money goes a bit further, getting you a two-bedroom apartment or more near the Grand Canal. (Of course, in less illustrious neighborhoods, your money goes further still.)

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【2008/04/25 聯合報】


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台積電昨(17)日表示,VTAF確實參與BridgeLux最後一波3,000 萬美元的增資,但這是VTAF自己的專業決定。VTAF是由曾任台積電業務資深副總Ronnarris成立的創投公司。



BridgeLux是美國LED大廠,尤其在高功率LED 有獨到技術,該公司創辦人暨技術長劉恒,就是LED設備機台(MOCVD)的原創者,BridgeLux執行長Mark Swoboda,曾任飛利浦旗下LED廠Lumileds的執行副總,去年6月才加入公司,整個BridgeLux的團隊多來自Lumileds與Cree等大廠,實力相當堅強。

BridgeLux雖然也有設備生產部門,不過,生產不是該公司的強項,它比較類似LED界的設計公司(design house),而台積電的專長就是生產製造,尤其LED的磊晶,類似半導體製程,也就是台積電所擅長的領域,雙方因此一拍即合,攜手切入照明領域。

根據Strategies Unlimited預估,未來五年全球LED業的年複合成長率為20%,光是2008年高功率LED的成長率就達12%,至2012年全球LED業產值將達114億美元,台積電將以成本優勢搶食這塊大餅。

全球LED磊晶產業,其實布滿了Lumileds、歐司朗與日亞化等歐美日大廠的專利,台積電透過結盟的投資公司,與BridgeLux結合,將成為台積電突破LED 專利的重要屏障。


【2008/04/18 經濟日報】

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