Planet Business

The Dyson Supersonic, ‘accidental pirates’ and Warren Buffett’s 92-year-old sidekick

 

Image of the week: Peak virtual

Yes, these are the fingers on the nuclear button, but what do they look like viewed in virtual reality? Only Barack Obama knows. The US president made front pages this week alongside German Chancellor Angela Merkel as both leaders gamely sported a Google Cardboard thingy equipped with a PMD CamBoard pico flexx (it says here) and hand-tracking software. Only a picture of the Queen wearing an Oculus Rift, or perhaps the Dalai Lama with a HTC Vive, can top it. Elsewhere at the Hanover Messe, the world’s largest industrial trade fair, Obama spent some time hanging with Siemens, which gave him golf clubs designed with its software. “I’m going to teach Angela how to play,” said Obama, to which Angela looked only thrilled.

In Numbers: Hairdryer treatment

€399

Cost of Dyson’s first personal care product, the Supersonic, a hairdryer that makes less noise and doesn’t overheat hair as much, thereby causing less styling damage than normal hairdryers. Form an orderly queue at Dyson.ie.

£50 million

Sum that Dyson pumped into research and development (R&D) for the Dyson Supersonic. The salon sales alone should make their outlay back for them.

1,625

Kilometre of hair on which Dyson tested the device, which uses the same airflow principles as Dyson’s desk fans – which are probably also better at drying hair than most actual hairdryers.

The lexicon: Accidental pirates

Anyone who uses the internet is an “accidental pirate”. Some of them are totally conscious, deliberate pirates, too, and some are professionals. But it’s the “accidental pirates” that Getty Images is worried about. The photo agency, representing more than 200,000 photo-journalists and artists, says it will file a competition lawsuit with the EU against Google, arguing that changes to Google’s image searches promote piracy. Its case is that because image consumption is immediate, once an image is displayed in large format by Google, there is little reason for the users to continue to the original source site of a picture they are viewing, resulting in widespread copyright infringement. It’s accidental piracy at first sight.

Getting to know: Charlie Munger

Charlie Munger is Warren Buffett’s “92-year-old sidekick”, as Bloomberg puts it, and more officially the vice-chairman of Berkshire Hathaway. A billionaire and fount of investment wisdom in his own right, Munger was a meteorologist in the US Army Air Corps during the second World War, went to Harvard Law School in the late 1940s and met Buffett at a dinner party in 1959. His pearls include the following advice: “Invest in a business any fool can run, because someday a fool will. If it won’t stand a little mismanagement, it’s not much of a business.” The secret of his success: “We recognised early on that very smart people do very dumb things, and we wanted to know why and who, so we could avoid them.” The annual Berkshire Hathaway shareholders meeting takes place this weekend.

The list: Retail failures

BHS, aka British Home Stores, has gone into administration, amid laments that it was not catering to the needs of the 21st-century consumer. The department store chain, which has four outlets in Northern Ireland, could join these names that have disappeared from the streets.

1 Clerys

The highest-profile Irish retailer to close and much-missed in Dublin. The fallout from how its staff were treated may yet prompt employment law reform.

2 Woolworths

An emporium of affordable amazingness in its heyday.

3 Virgin Megastores

These still exist in the Middle East, but they’re now a distant memory for Irish shoppers. Much of its Aston Quay store is now a SuperValu.

4 Fresh & Easy

Tesco’s venture into the Californian grocery market, initiated at the height of its Noughties pomp, was an unmitigated disaster.

5 Borders

US books and coffee merchants Borders began to expand internationally in the late 1990s but its ambitious schemes all sadly unravelled.

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