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Tech News: Google Chromebooks Have Caught On and Are Multiplying; YouTube Is Going 4K

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Plus, Innovega's contact lenses-and-glasses device may beat Google Glass to the punch; FireEye acquires Mandiant for $1 billion.

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Chromebooks Have Caught On; Many New Models Will Debut in 2014

In large part thanks to a highly competitive price point (generally between $200 and $300), Chromebooks -- or, laptops that run Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Chrome OS -- are growing in popularity and success. Both the Acer (OTCMKTS:ACEIF) C270 and the Samsung (OTCMKTS:SSNLF) Chromebook constantly sit atop Amazon's (NASDAQ:AMZN) list of top-selling laptops. Moreover, according to the market research firm NPD Group, Chromebooks accounted for 21% of devices sold in commercial laptop channels. (A statistic that got somewhat overplayed in the media (see: I Am 100% Certain That Google Chromebooks Did Not Take 21% of the Notebook Market).
Chromebooks run a limited number of programs, namely those in Google's suite of Chrome applications. Many consumers and businesses only need simple services like Google Docs and Google Drives, and therefore take advantage of the competitive price to populate their classrooms with Chromebooks.

The rise of popularity in Chromebooks will likely continue to grow. Just this morning, DigiTimes reported that both Asus (OTCMKTS:AKCPF) and Toshiba (OTCMKTS:TOSYY) will be launching their first Chromebooks in 2014, while Dell also has its first Chromebook debuting later this month.

This Company May Beat Google to the Smart-Glasses Punch

Last year at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), the wearable-tech startup Innovega showcased its iOptik smart-glasses system, which uses glasses to project images onto special contact lenses. The product was not functional, but was displayed on a mannequin. At this year's CES, which begins next week in Las Vegas, the company will again be showcasing the technology, but this time as a working prototype; Innovega will demonstrate the device in functioning form.

iOptik can function just like Google Glass by projecting "glanceable" displays, but it can also project a full head-up display (HUD) for users, with multiple images and data spread across a user's field of vision, like windows on a screen. Google Glass can't do that. See the image below for an illustration of exactly what that means:


Source: Innovega

Innovega has no plans to develop its own apps for iOptik. For now, it synchs with Android-based products, which opens up a whole world of possible applications.

A consumer-ready iOptik may still be a bit far off though: Because Innovega is creating a product that is put into the body, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) is involved. The company's CEO, Stephen Willey, has said that Innovega will likely apply to the FDA in late 2014 or early 2015 with a consumer-ready version of the product.

YouTube Will Introduce 4K Video Streaming With HD Quality and Half the Bandwidth

And speaking of Las Vegas, YouTube has also announced a high-profile demonstration of new technology for this year's CES. Thanks to a new Google video format, YouTube will be able to stream 4K videos at high-definition quality and half of the bandwidth of typical HD, and it will be displaying the technology in Las Vegas next week.

The new video format, called VP9, will allow many more users to avoid buffering while streaming HD videos. But the new technology isn't just about videos: As Matt Frost, a senior business product manager for Google Chrome's Web Media team, said at the Google I/O developers conference in 2013, "With a codec as good as VP9, we can significantly increase the size of the Internet. We can significantly increase the speed of the Internet." Moreover, use of the video format will be royalty-free, which Frost has said will save millions of dollars for schools, start-ups, and programmers.

Google wants the VP9 technology to be broadly adopted, so it has persuaded a high-caliber list of partners to already commit to the new video format, including ARM (NASDAQ:ARMH), Broadcom (NASDAQ:BRCM), Mozilla, Samsung (OTCMKTS:SSNLF), and Toshiba (OTCMKTS:TOSBF). Moreover, demo partners Sony (NYSE:SNE), Panasonic (OCTMKTS:PCRFY), and LG (NYSE:LPL) will be showing off the high-definition, low-bandwidth streams at their CES booths as well.

FireEye Acquires Cyber Forensics Firm Mandiant for $1 Billion

The relatively new cyber-security company FireEye (NASDAQ:FEYE), founded in 2004, has just announced a $1.05 billion cash-and-stock deal to acquire Mandiant, an American computer forensics company best known for discovering a secret unit of the Chinese military suspected of hacking into corporate computer systems in the US. Since the announcement of the deal early this morning, FireEye's stock has jumped over 30% to $53.77.

Though sales of traditional and older cyber-security products have been on the decline, security experts and analysts have expressed expectations for growth at both FireEye, with its cloud-based system for detecting malware, and Mandiant, which offers in-depth analysis of cyber attacks. Said Daniel Ives, an analyst at the investment bank FBR, "If you combine FireEye's advanced persistent-threat technology with Mandiant's endpoint protection, it really makes them a major force in the cyber-security industry."

Follow me on Twitter: @JoshWolonick and @Minyanville
No positions in stocks mentioned.
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