Panasonic EVP Bob Perry: Consumers Desire Choice

Panasonic (s PC) EVP Bob Perry made it clear at this week’s TV of Tomorrow Show that there’s not much love lost in America for cable TV. He joked that even Wall Street bankers might be more popular than cable execs, and warned that cable companies won’t survive if they continue to force consumers into a business model that nobody wants. “There is over a hundred million households yearning to be free,” he says.
Perry also had another warning for the cable industry: Government has stepped in before to enforce competition and decouple infrastructure from services. The phone business went through this transition, and power companies have been facing similar regulations, he said. Could cable be next? Will Congress eventually force cable companies to open up their pipes for competitors to sell programming? “It certainly happened to many other businesses,” he mused.
Of course, cable isn’t the only gatekeeper in this newteevee world. Device makers increasingly hold the key to over the top platforms, deciding which services to include and which to leave out. So how will Panasonic deal with this responsibility? I decided to find out and ask Perry a few more questions.
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Apple’s Billions and Billions

Yesterday, the New York Times published an article examining what it refers to as the upcoming “war” between computer chip manufacturers. It’s an interesting read if you’re desperately into that sort of thing, but what’s most compelling is the assertion that Apple (s aapl) probably invested at least a billion dollars in the iPad’s custom silicon.

As we reported here, Apple bought chip manufacturer P.A. Semi back in April 2008 for a cool $278 million, ostensibly to acquire the company’s engineering talent and manufacturing expertise, and, perhaps, the use of its existing facilities to produce its own custom-designed chips. Perhaps this helped save Apple a little money up-front, if the NYT’s is correct about the development costs of the chips alone;

Even without the direct investment of a factory, it can cost […] about $1 billion to create a smartphone chip from scratch.

Does this mean Apple saved a cool seven hundred million dollars when it bought P.A. Semi? If you’re a company with almost forty billion dollars in the bank, finding the ready cash to develop your own groundbreaking processor doesn’t seem quite such a mammoth undertaking. And I’ll be the first to admit I’m likely oversimplifying the whole thing, but y’know, that Jobs fellow is a wily old fox… Read More about Apple’s Billions and Billions

Want Think’s Electric Car? Better Live in One of These Cities

Think, the Norwegian electric car maker that aims to start selling its Think City model in the U.S. next year, has been doing its homework: slicing and dicing the massive U.S. auto market into an index of cities where its mid-range two-seater is most likely to take off early on.

“Ideally,” Think CEO Richard Canny says in a release today of the company’s top 15 “EV-Ready” cities, Think would like to sell the City nationwide next year. “[B]ut in our early commercialization phase, it is important that we first establish a strong concentration of sales in key, highly attractive markets.” Topping Think’s list are Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and New York (full index below the break). Read More about Want Think’s Electric Car? Better Live in One of These Cities

Donate Directly to Haiti Relief Efforts via iTunes

One very impressive thing about the international reaction to Haiti’s recent devastating earthquake is the many, many ways you can contribute to relief efforts. The Red Cross and other humanitarian organizations acted quickly, setting up donations via the web, through partnerships with product makers, and through incredibly simple text messages charged directly to your bill.

The flipside is that it can be hard to know exactly which methods are legit, and in which cases the bulk of your donation actually goes to relief work. Apple (s aapl) and the Red Cross have set up a method for donating money that makes it very simple to make a contribution that will go entirely towards helping Haitians deal with the fallout of this tragic event; you can now donate via iTunes. Read More about Donate Directly to Haiti Relief Efforts via iTunes

Detroit Auto Show Day 2: Cheap EV Dreams, Dirty Cars and When Automakers Attack (Eek!)

The first day of the North American International Auto Show brought us the first glimpse of Toyota’s concept for a Prius family of hybrids, news of Ford’s plans for a major investment in electric vehicles and other goodies (highlighted for you with plenty of pics here). Today the annual event, taking place in Detroit, brings us a slew of fresh photos, promises, posturing and announcements (including one acquisition) from the likes of Tesla Motors, BYD Auto, Daimler, Dow Kokam and other companies. Below you’ll find highlights from Day 2 of the show.
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BYD Plug-in Hybrid Sales Wallow in the Hundreds

For China’s BYD, the Warren Buffett-backed battery company turned automaker, hybrid sales have been anything but brisk this year. Since launching its F3DM plug-in hybrid model in December 2008, BYD has sold “several hundred” of the vehicles, according to a Reuters report on Tuesday. That’s up from only 80 F3DM sales through April of this year, and less than 100 as of August.

But while the pace has apparently picked up in the latter half of 2009, the model has come in well below the company’s ambitious sales targets — BYD originally aimed to sell 10,000 of the plug-in hybrids in 2009, and this fall reportedly scaled back to a goal of 3,000-4,000 units for the year. Read More about BYD Plug-in Hybrid Sales Wallow in the Hundreds

China’s BYD Eyes SoCal for Its U.S. Electric Car Ambitions

As far as China’s BYD Co. is concerned, Los Angeles has at least five markings of a prime launchpad for electric vehicles: high population density, air pollution problems, a large car market, affluent consumers, and a yen for new technologies. That’s why the battery giant and automaker has named the L.A. area as the region “at the top of the list” of potential lead markets for its electric vehicle and inaugural U.S. offering, the five-seat e6 scheduled to launch next year.
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Warren Buffett: All Cars Will Be Electric By 2030

Warren Buffett, the closely watched investor and mega-billionaire, expects that 20 years from now, all cars will run on electricity. At least, that’s what he told Rice University business students at his Omaha headquarters this month when asked for his thoughts on peak oil and replacements for “carbon fuels,” the Houston Chronicle reports (hat tip Gasgoo and GuruFocus).

Such a rapid transition to electric vehicles could work out well for BYD, the China-based developer of electric vehicles and lithium-ion batteries in which Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway investment firm holds a 10 percent stake. But some other forecasts suggest we’re more likely to see a mix of fuels — including gasoline and electricity — powering vehicles for some time to come, rather than a wholesale switch to plug-ins by 2030.
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