Time to break out the bubly, companies say
By TIMES WIRES
Published December 7, 2006
Companies are loosening the purse strings for holiday parties this year, according to a survey that focuses on year-end corporate merriment. While the percentage of companies planning to foot the bill for holiday parties is unchanged from last year - 83 percent - the median spending has climbed to $7,000, compared with $5,000 in 2005, according to the Bureau of National Affairs, a Washington, D.C., private research group that released its annual holiday survey Tuesday. And more companies are giving workers a reason to celebrate: A record 49 percent plan to give employees gifts or bonuses, up from 40 percent a year ago.
Toyota's foreign output in overdrive
Toyota Motor Corp. plans to produce more cars overseas than in Japan for the first time ever in 2007, according to a Japanese newspaper report Wednesday. The car giant plans to expand overseas car production to about 4.4-million vehicles, up from 4-million in 2006, while its domestic production is expected to increase to 4.2-million vehicles in 2007 compared with 4.11-million this year, the Asahi newspaper said, without citing sources. Toyota's global output in 2007 is likely to top that of General Motors Corp., and the company aims to accelerate the localization of production to head off possible trade friction, the report said.
Zune's milestone hardly nips at Apple
Microsoft Corp. said Wednesday that it expects to sell 1-million of its new Zune music players through the first half of 2007. That figure would pale in comparison to Apple Computer Inc.'s market-leading iPod, but Microsoft contends it would be a good start. The $250 Zune, whose 30 gigabyte hard drive can hold 7,500 songs, debuted in mid November to mixed reviews. One unique aspect of the Zune, its ability to let users wirelessly send songs to each other, has been panned for allowing shared music to be played only three times in three days before expiring. Apple says it sold 39-million iPods of various sizes in the 12 months ended Sept. 30. Microsoft has mainly cast the Zune as a first step that would be successful even if it remains a small No. 2 to iPod in the category of higher-end music players.
Free seems like right price for AOL
Time Warner Inc. president Jeff Bewkes said more than 5-million Internet users took up AOL's free-service offer since it started about three months ago. About 2-million of those users weren't subscribers to the AOL Web access service, Bewkes said. The rest were AOL customers who would have discontinued the service, he said. AOL is giving away its e-mail and software to users with high-speed Internet access to boost advertising sales as subscription revenue declines. Ad sales rose 46 percent in the third quarter.