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Today in Tech: Details on the New iPhone and a Huge Antitrust Case


Apple, Google, Intel, and four other tech companies are being sued for colluding to keep wages down by agreeing not to poach employees, and a sleek glassless iPhone might be in the works for this year.

New details on the future iPhone have hit the press today. Korea IT News says that Apple's (AAPL) newest phone will employ Liquidmetal, an alloy that feels like glass, but isn't prone to as many scratches and cracks. Apple has held exclusive rights to use this alloy, which can be injection-molded rather than die-cast, since 2010. If this is true, the Liquidmetal body will allow for a tough, lightweight unibody design. This can't be good for Corning (GLW), which supplies the "Gorilla Glass" used in the current iPhone.

Just about all of the most important companies in Silicon Valley will be heading to court for a class action antitrust lawsuit over their agreement not to poach employees. Five ex-employees of the tech giants are suing Apple, Google (GOOG), Intel (INTC), Adobe (ADBE), Pixar (DIS), Intuit (INTU), and Lucasfilm Ltd. for colluding to reduce the compensation for their software engineers. TechCrunch writes that if the employees' lawyers find evidence of a conspiracy, it could cost these companies hundreds of millions in settlement cash. The Department of Justice has presented emails between executives calling for a truce. Steve Jobs' boldfaced admission, "We must do whatever we can to stop cold calling each other's employees and other competitive recruiting efforts between the companies," certainly doesn't help. Then again, labor mobility isn't unheard of in the Valley. Facebook's staff is stuffed with ex-Googlers, for example.

Microsoft (MSFT), the world's biggest software maker, surged 5.55% today after reporting better-than-expected revenue and earnings yesterday afternoon. The 6% year-over-year increase in revenue was driven by the Windows division. The company's enterprise customers bought more Windows PCs and Microsoft cloud computing services, which helped offset a decline in revenue from entertainment products such as the Xbox game console. Analysts expected earnings for Microsoft, currently absent from the tablet market, to be hampered by sagging PC sales.

Earlier this month, Microsoft paid just over $1 billion for a set of 800 patents from America Online (AOL). Bloomberg reported today that Microsoft had to outbid Facebook to get that patent portfolio. Facebook has a comparatively tiny patent arsenal for a tech company, which made it vulnerable to a dispute with Yahoo! (YHOO) last month. Following that dispute, Facebook acquired 750 patents from IBM (IBM). The quest for protective patent acquisition also drove Google to spend $12 billion to buy Motorola (MMI).

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Twitter: @vincent_trivett
No positions in stocks mentioned.
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