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Canada once quarantined Microsoft mice, thinking they were alive Add to ...

These are stories Report on Business is following Tuesday, June 19, 2012.

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Of mice and men
Canadian customs officials are on the lookout for many things: Drugs, porn, toxic goods … and newfangled equipment.

Steve Ballmer, the chief of Microsoft Corp., told a wonderful tale yesterday as he unveiled the software giant's new tablet, Surface. Of course, advances in technology were different in the mid-1980s than they are now, and it was a more innocent age.

Here's how Mr. Ballmer put it as he spoke of the interaction between software and hardware:

"Just let's take the mouse as an example. To be successful, Windows 1.0 really needed a mouse. So we built one. Early reviews of mice were not very positive as people struggled to understand the real value. In fact, actually it was so new that Canadian customs quarantined the Microsoft mouse at the border for four weeks thinking that it was alive."

Seems like an odd tale, but he wasn't laughing when he said it.

As The Globe and Mail's Omar El Akkad reports, Microsoft yesterday took the wraps off its new tablet, which will compete with Apple Inc.'s popular iPad.

I want to know more, so I've asked the Canada Border Services Agency to try to track down the incident in question. A spokeswoman for Microsoft said the company had nothing to add. Stay tuned.

 

Europe plots path forward
European leaders pledged at the G20 meeting in Mexico today to move decisively to fix their banking and debt troubles.

There were no timelines in their promise. Nor were definitive steps outlined. There was, though a push to end what's known as the "feedback loop," when governments build up more debt to prop up their ailing banks.

They also said they would at least discuss other proposals, such as a so-called banking union that would spread risk around.

“We support the intention to consider concrete steps towards a more integrated financial architecture, encompassing banking supervision, resolution and recapitalization, and deposit insurance," the G20 said of the embattled euro zone.

This followed some tense moments that highlighted the divisions among the group.

European Commission chief José Manuel Barroso yesterday took on some of his colleagues, such as Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper, for pressing Europe to solve its problems. One of the issues, of course, is Canada's decision to not pump extra funds into the International Monetary Fund, money that would be used to prop up Europe's ailing nations.

It's true that Mr. Harper and his finance minister, Jim Flaherty, have been aggressive in demanding Europe fix its ills, but the protests, strikes and election results show that Europeans feel the same way. Mr. Barroso should have held his fire, and tried to work behind the scenes. Instead, he fired back, The Globe and Mail's Bill Curry reports from Los Cabos, where the G20 met.

"Frankly, we are not coming here to receive lessons in terms of democracy and in terms of how to run an economy because the European Union has a model that we may be very proud of," Mr. Barroso said.

Whether or not he should be proud of that model is beside the point. These leaders have an opportunity to show the world today that they can, indeed, pull together when needed. And Mr. Barroso, in particular, should understand just how much of a pall Europe has cast on other countries.

"Mr. Barroso’s comments reflect how much the euro zone crisis is poisoning relations between the major powers, but he should bear in mind that we have all been watching this slow-motion car crash unfold now for almost three years, and we are still no closer to a resolution," said sales trader Yusuf Heusen of IG Index in London.

 

Canada invited to talks
Canada has been invited to join the Trans Pacific Partnership free trade talks, an announcement that comes one day after Mexico was also asked to join the nine member group.

Each of the nine TPP states must now have the two invitations approved domestically, meaning it will need the approval of the U.S. Congress, The Globe and Mail's Bill Curry writes.

Canada expects that by early this fall, its participation in the TPP will be confirmed. The next round of TPP negotiations will take place from July 2 to July 10 in San Diego.

Current members of the TPP talks include the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Chile, Peru, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei.

 

Bombardier sees marginal downturn
Bombardier Inc. expects a slight downturn in its annual 2O-year forecast for the global commercial aircraft market but says business jet deliveries will return to sustained growth next year.

The Montreal-based plane and train maker says it's "confident in the strong, long-term potential of the business aircraft industry" and forecasts a total of 24,000 business jet deliveries from 2012 to 2031, The Globe and Mail's Bertrand Marotte reports from Montreal.

On the commercial side, in the 20-to-149-seat segment, the company sees 12,800 deliveries over the next 20 years, a decrease of 300 units or 2.3 per cent compared to last year's forecast, mainly due to a lower GDP forecast and a sharp increase in the anticipated oil price.

 

Brookfield buys properties
Brookfield Office Properties is spending $829-million for a suite of properties in London's financial district.

Brookfield said today it's buying almost 900,000 square feet - several buildings - from Hammerson PLC.

Among the assets are a 26-story tower at the former site of the London Stock Exchange, which is already 98-per-cent leased. Brookfield will now have a half-interest in the building.

“This acquisition aligns with our strategy of providing front-office accommodations to the world’s most prestigious tenants by owning and operating premier properties that are well-located within the most dynamic global markets," said Brookfield's chief investment officer Dennis Friedrich.

 

Walgreen expands overseas
America's biggest drug store chain is moving overseas in a $6.7-billion (U.S.) cash-and-stock deal for a piece of Alliance Boots.

The Swiss-based target operates more than 3,300 shops in 11 countries, and is huge in Europe.

The deal gives Walgreen a 45-per-cent interest, with an option to buy the rest in about three years.

"We are bringing together the strengths and expertise of each company to create a worldwide healthcare platform for the future that can

provide innovative ways to address global health and wellness challenges," said chief executive officer Gregory Wasson.

 

World's wealthy take a hit
Economic turmoil is pinching the pocketbooks of the world’s wealthy, a little, The Globe and Mail's Tavia Grant reports.

Global wealth among high net worth individuals declined 1.7 per cent last year amid market volatility, Capgemini’s World Wealth Report, released today, shows. It fell in all regions except for the Middle East.

The drop is the first since the 2008 global economic crisis, a year when high net worth individual wealth plunged 19.5 per cent, the report said. That said, their total wealth still amounted to $42-trillion last year – the second-highest level since record-keeping began in 2005.

Follow on Twitter: @michaelbabad

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