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Tech News: Google's Chromebook Is Flexing Some Muscles

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Plus, rumors of a new Nokia tablet, Obama's preemptive cyber attacks, and Apple calls for strengthening unions at Foxconn.

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This column brings you the most interesting and useful business and financial commentary on technology from around the Web every day.

ZDNet
Link: Google's Chromebook Gains Momentum: Just Enough to Annoy Microsoft

"When Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) launched its Chrome OS experiment it had all the makings of yet another hobby that wouldn't quite play out to be much of a threat to Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) personal computing efforts. It might be time to rethink that theory.

"And initially there was no reason to believe Chrome OS---and Chromebooks---would amount to much in late 2010. The first iterations of Chrome OS were raw and basically a browser. Chromebooks would appeal to a subset of the computing universe and not much else.

"Simply put, the subset is swelling. Google now has Chromebooks in 2,000 schools and there are some signs the masses are checking out the devices.

"The Chromebook has recently pushed by Google's core Android partners---notably Samsung (PINK:SSNLF). But suddenly there's some volume coming Google's way. First, Asus (TPE:2357) noted that the Chromebook accounted to 5 percent to 10 percent of volume. And that volume came during the Windows 8 launch."

GigaOm
Link: Another Microsoft Partner Plays the Field: HP Outs a $329 Chromebook
"Folks looking for a Chromebook that offers a large display need only turn to HP(NYSE:HPQ). On Monday, the company began selling its first laptop running Google's Chrome OS and it boasts the biggest display amongst its peers: 14 inches. Expect to pay a little more, however, both in cost dollars and battery life.

"The new HP Pavilion Chromebook is priced at $329, which gets you the bigger screen but the same internals as most other Chromebooks on the market: a 1.1 GHz Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) Celeron chip, 2 GB of memory that can be doubled, 16 GB of flash storage, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth. Although the display is large by comparison - most Chromebook screens range between 11 and 12 inches - it doesn't offer higher resolution. It's the same 1366 x 768 that most Chromebooks offer."

TechCrunch
Link: Nokia CEO Hints At Tablet-Shaped, Windows-Based Hardware in Its Future
"Nokia (NYSE:NOK) was an early mover in the tablet space – in 2007, years before the iPad burst onto the scene, it was unboxing its N800 Internet Tablet (which looks more like a phablet by today's enormo-phone standards). But these days the Finnish high-end and low-end mobile maker does not play with slates - at least, not yet. That could soon change though, judging by comments made by Nokia CEO Stephen Elop who has given the company's clearest hint yet that it wants to get back into the tablet space.

"Speaking to the Australian Financial Review, Elop stopped short of announcing a Nokia-branded tablet is coming but confirmed the company is taking a close look at the space. "We haven't announced tablets at this point, but it is something we are clearly looking at very closely," he told the newspaper. "We are studying very closely the market right now as Microsoft has introduced the Surface tablet, so we are trying to learn from that and understand what the right way to participate would be and at what point in time."

The Verge
Link: Obama Can Order Pre-Emptive Cyberattacks, According to Secret Administation Review
"As the United States government looks to codify its stance on cyber warfare, President Barack Obama will have authority to order pre-emptive strikes if officials detect imminent digital threats from overseas. Obama's administration has been conducting a review of so-called "cyberweapons" at its disposal over the last several months in an effort to better protect government interests and vital US infrastructure from online attacks.

"Whatever policies are established will be highly classified and hidden from public eyes - unwelcome news to critics that have questioned the sense of urgency surrounding cybercrime. It's expected that the most severe cyber strikes will still require the president's direct blessing, however. Speaking to The New York Times, an anonymous administration official said there would be "very, very few instances" where decisions fall to someone beneath Obama. Thus far in his presidency, and contrasting with his controversial stance on drone surveillance, Obama has largely refrained from major web assaults. One exception has been the "Stuxnet" cyber attack carried out on Iran's nuclear facilities - the Times previously published an in-depth report outlining US complicity in that effort."

HuffPost Tech
Link: Foxconn Unions Are Strengthened at Apple's Request
"Taiwan-owned Foxconn Technology Group (TPE:2354), a leading maker of Apple's iPhones and gadgets for other global brands, is widening the scope of union elections at its sprawling facilities in China.

"The move, confirmed by the company Monday, follows a series of recommendations from an international panel hired by Apple to audit conditions for the 1.2 million workers in Foxconn's mainland factories.

"Foxconn said it will deepen employees' involvement in union elections so the unions can more effectively represent their interests. It said it hopes this will impact labor standards throughout China."

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