Strange New World: Picks of the Week

As we head into the Thanksgiving week and the official kickoff of the holiday shopping season, its time get into those big box stores and do some shopping. Why the urgency? Well, in this economy, who's to tell what stores will still be open by the end on December. Here are our picks of the week.

Apple Retail Stores May Be the Last One Standing

Forget winning or losing the PC or cell phone wars: Steve Jobs looks to be the new king of retailing. The rest of the consumer electronics sphere has pretty much taken a knee for this season's holiday sales. Catastrophic numbers are being predicted by everyone from Best Buy to Target. Everyone, that is, expect Apple. Not only is the company not cutting back its retail presence in this market, it is expanding. They opened a new store in Dade County, Fla., this month. And they opened five others in several other states back in October and earlier in the fall. To put it another way, according MacWorld, Apple had 216 stores in June and 242 by the end of September. That's a 12 percent increase for the period, which would be huge by any measure. Never mind they did it during the worst economic collapse in 40 years. Since Apple controls its inventories from production through sale, it is not exposed to third parties in these unstable times. Sure the company will see a softening of sales, but Apple is not in the position of, say, HP, Monster and everyone else who is going to take major shrapnel from Circuit City's collapse.

Microsoft Is 'Saved by Zero'

No you are not going crazy, Toyota's omnipresent television commercial has not invaded your PC. But that ad campaign may have had a big effect on our friends out in Redmond, Wash. It looks like Microsoft is going to offer 0 percent financing on some of its business software. If you are a small- to medium-sized business and are looking to spend $20,000 to $1 million on CRM or accounting software, Microsoft has a deal for you. The software giant is offering 0 percent financing over 36 months -- so act now! "Saved by Zero"

The RIAA v. Harvard Law School

We all know that the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is pretty serious about suing anybody that they can prove has downloaded music illegally and they are always suing people. But this time it looks like somebody is going to stand up to the music industry muscle men for once. Harvard Law School professor and Internet Law expert Charles Nesson has decided to take up the case of Joel Tenenbaum, who has been sued by the RIAA. Nesson argues that the Digital Theft Deterrence and Copyright Damages Improvement Act of 1999 is unconstitutional and the hefty fines that it suggests are, in many ways, a criminal statute for a civil crime. This is going to be an important case to keep an eye on going forward.

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