'Dell's Angels,' virtual profits and Google Oscars

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DELL HATH NO FURY LIKE AN INTERNAL PROMOTION. BRYAN Chester, sales director at tech giant Dell Inc., and Daniel Rawson, his supervisor, were arrested last month and face misdemeanor charges of interfering with public duties and deadly conduct in an ill-conceived marketing stunt at the company's Round Rock, Texas, headquarters. To promote its new Dell Streak tablet with a featured integration dock for Harley-Davidson motorcycles, 48-year-old Chester stormed Building 1 in a skull mask and all-black biker outfit. He held up “two metallic objects” and yelled at 400 uninformed co-workers to gather in the lobby under the guise of a mock hostage situation. “Through a series of misinterpretations [and] miscommunications, this sent [people] into a controlled panic,” Round Rock Public Affairs Officer Eric Poteet told local NBC news affiliate KXAN. When unnerved employees called the police and a SWAT team arrived, Chester refused to break character but gave up along with 36 year-old Rawson after 11 minutes of explanation about the in-house promo gone awry. —Tanya Meyer MOVE OVER, GROUPON. ZYNGA, CREATOR OF SUCH VIRTUAL applications as Facebook's CityVille and FarmVille—with 275 million total monthly users—has been declared one of the world's most profitable companies. According to Nicholas Carlson and Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry of The Business Insider, the San Francisco-based company last month reported a 47% profit margin after three years of business—a growth rate exceeding the early stages of the largest Internet companies:, eBay, Google and Yahoo. “This kind of profitability is possible [because] Zynga sells "virtual goods.' They don't cost much to make, don't need to be shipped to shelves [or] need any kind of sales force,” said Carlson and Gobry. They point out Zynga's social games follow the same model as 1980s arcade games: addictively simple with increasingly difficult levels, charging players small amounts to buy “lives” to boost their odds of winning. With Zynga, online gamers purchase (via credit card or PayPal) cash to erect buildings in CityVille or seeds to grow crops in FarmVille. Zynga, with an estimated worth of $4 billion, is rumored to soon be going public. —Emma Garl Smith LOOK BEYOND APPEARANCES. GOOGLE'S INSIGHTS FOR SEARCH website has for four years monitored online search trends for Oscar nominees in weeks prior to the Academy Awards ceremony to predict whether popular opinion determines winners. According to this year's data for the 83rd ceremony, which aired Feb. 27—on a scale of 1 to 100—“Black Swan” registered a score of 15 while eventual Best Picture winner “The King's Speech” ranked a paltry 1. James Franco's 5 trumped Colin Firth's 3 in the Best Actor category, but that mattered little when it came time to present the award. Natalie Portman's top score of 16, however, showed that both the Google search population and the academy were on track for Best Actress. Search results were based on a primary demographic of 35 and under—the same age group with the highest percentage of Internet users and lowest-rated viewing audience for the annual awards show. According to technology reporter Jacob Aron of Reed Business Information's New Scientist, Niv Efron of Google's Insights for Search team said, “Searches can only reflect what people are interested in, but it's fun to look for patterns year after year.” —E.G.S.
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