PC industry’s woes could mean bargains this fall

If you’re looking for bargains on computers, bad news from the tech industry could be good for your pocketbook, reports the Associated Press. Computer makers are scrambling for ways to goose faltering consumer demand after a weak start to the back-to-school shopping season. That could mean deeper price cuts and other promotions beyond the incentives that the industry dangled in front of shoppers to lure them into stores during the worst of the recession. The latest sign of trouble came Aug. 27 when Intel Corp. lowered its forecast for the third quarter, saying demand for consumer PCs has been weaker than expected. Because Intel’s microprocessors are used in 80 percent of the world’s PCs, its forecast essentially speaks for the health of the entire PC industry. Plus, its orders are based on how many computers the world’s biggest PC makers expect to make in the coming months, so weak chip sales now could foreshadow weak results to come from those manufacturers. Consumer spending on discounted computers was instrumental in helping buoy the industry over the past two years, while businesses cut way back—but that trend is now reversing. Consumers aren’t spending on technology as freely as they were; uncertainty about jobs is keeping their spending in check. Meanwhile, businesses have freed their budgets a bit. It’s not necessarily because they’re more sanguine about their prospects. Instead, upgrading technology makes financial sense: Maintaining old machines can be more expensive than buying new ones with more features…

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Intel to buy McAfee in $7.68 billion deal

Intel Corp. is buying computer-security software maker McAfee Inc. for $7.68 billion as the chip-maker adds to its arsenal of tools to serve an increasing array of internet-connected devices, including mobile phones, reports the Associated Press. Intel said security is now a fundamental component of online computing, but today’s approach to security isn’t adequate for the growing availability of internet connections on mobile phones, medical devices, ATMs, automobiles, and elsewhere. The industry needs a new approach that combines software, hardware, and services to meet tomorrow’s needs, the company said. “With the rapid expansion of growth across a vast array of internet-connected devices, more and more of the elements of our lives have moved online,” Intel CEO Paul Otellini said. “In the past, energy-efficient performance and connectivity have defined computing requirements. Looking forward, security will join those as a third pillar of what people demand from all computing experiences.” Intel is an infrequent acquirer with a history of dabbling in, and retreating from, markets outside its core business of building computer microprocessors. But the company has been persistent in trying to expand into the market for the guts of smart phones and other internet-connected wireless devices—and the purchase of McAfee would help Intel secure those devices from malicious software and other computing threats…

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Intel CFO sees U.S. losing battle for high-tech jobs

CFO reports that the United States continues to lose ground in the battle for high-tech jobs because of its lack of outreach to domestic companies, Intel’s finance chief said. Countries such as China and Singapore are ramping up efforts to build high-tech hubs and cooperate with U.S. companies to improve math and science curricula in schools, he noted. Smith also sees deterioration in the education of the U.S. workforce. Even entry-level positions on Intel’s factory floors require some advanced technical training, and the plants also employ PhDs in material sciences and physics. But math and science curricula in primary-school systems in the United States are comparatively weak, he said, and the population of university students pursuing math, science, and engineering has dropped. “These are some worrisome signs,” said Smith…

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