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Is Amazon Move A Mirage?
With less than six months to go until's self-imposed deadline for profitability, its latest efforts to boost revenue include last week's opening of a software-licensing center for small and midsize companies and a free shipping offer for consumer orders of two or more items.

Some critics call the free shipping a disguised price hike, with revamped prices more than offsetting savings. An Amazon spokeswoman says only that some prices were raised, some lowered, and some left the same, including those of best-sellers. But some shoppers have a few tricks of their own, such as buying a 49-cent book as their second item to get free shipping.

--Christopher T. Heun ([email protected])

Dot-Com Layoffs Level Off
The latest monthly rundown by outplacement firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas shows dot-com layoffs are at their lowest level since November with 9,216 in June, down 31% from May and another 24% from April's record high of 17,554 layoffs.

Do the figures mean the worst of the shakeout is over? Or is it simply that after all the dot-com failures and consolidations, there are simply fewer employees left to sack?

That's definitely part of it, says John Challenger, the firm's president. "Since total employment has dropped significantly, companies are just no longer around."

--Elisabeth Goodridge ([email protected])

Palms Up For Students
Students at the Forsyth Country Day School outside Winston-Salem, N.C., won't just be asked to take out their books when school starts in August--they'll have to get out their Palm IIIc PDAs, too. Forsyth is the first school in the nation to give high schoolers handhelds and require their use. The devices are provided at a big discount by Palm as part of a nation-wide program for colleges and schools. Forsyth students will use the PDAs to access E-mail, synchronize assignments, and connect to school and class Web sites.

Kids have "grown up with devices and love them," says Jolaine Harbour, Palm's educational marketing director. "We want to help them learn with these devices."

--Matthew G. Nelson ([email protected])

If Ya Can't Beat 'Em...
Like brands such as Coca-Cola before it, high-end champagne maker Veuve Clicquot, a subsidiary of Moet, has fallen victim to an unwanted E-mail campaign.

A hoax message purporting to be from Clicquot has been circulating the world electronically; it promises cases of bubbly to those who pass the E-mail to 10 friends and copy the forwarded message to Clicquot. After battling an overstuffed in-box and accusations of accumulating an E-mail address database with the ploy, the company realized it might be easier to fight fire with fire.

Thus, Clicquot is about to launch its own E-mail campaign, opt-in of course, for the 3,000 members of its online club. The E-mails will promise more realistic rewards, like the prizes players can win when playing games on the company Web site.

--Eileen Colkin ([email protected])

To The Bard's Dismay
Google has been adding far-flung alternatives to good old-fashioned English for users to set their interfaces in. The latest include Latin, Welsh, and Nepali. But the search engine has also added Pig Latin, Elmer Fudd, and Bork, bork, bork!--the language of the Swedish chef from The Muppet Show.

Set your search page for Pig Latin, and the search button reads "Google earchsay." Set it for Elmer Fudd and the "I'm feeling lucky" button reads "I'm feewing wucky." Other features on the page also appear in the "language" you've picked, but queries entered in English come back in English, and are real.--

--Tony Kontzer ([email protected])

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