The Tech 10: Wal-Mart Goes DRM-Free, MTV and RealNetworks Confront iTunes and a ‘Moviestar’ Is Born

Note: John Paczkowski is on vacation and won’t be writing or posting videos until he returns Monday.

To keep you abreast of tech news while he’s away, we’re compiling a daily digest of 10 must-read tech stories. We’re calling it the Tech 10 and it appears below.

  1. Retailing behemoth Wal-Mart will sell digital-music downloads on its Web site without copy protection, Reuters reports. The so-called digital-rights management software insisted on by some record labels can stymie where the average user plays the songs.
  2. Taking on the juggernaut of iTunes, MTV and RealNetworks are forming an online digital music venture called Rhapsody America. According to The Wall Street Journal, Verizon Wireless has signed on as mobile distributor of the joint content.
  3. Adobe Systems’ warhorse Flash Player is getting a makeover named “Moviestar.” The update, says InfoWorld’s Paul Krill, will bring high-definition video technology to downloads, affording clearer and smoother playback of images.
  4. Increasingly popular online video site Metacafe metacafe.logo.jpggot a shot in the arm in the form of $30 million in financing. VentureBeat reports that the latest cash infusion was led by new investors Highland Capital Partners and DAG Ventures.
  5. Acknowledging it did bad (though not evil), Google announced last night that it would make credit-card refunds, rather than Google Checkout credits, to those owed after the company terminated its download-to-own/rent service of Google Videos. PC Magazine disclosed that the search giant will also allow users an additional six months to watch the videos they have already downloaded.
  6. Fretting over security and productivity concerns, half of all companies in a recent survey are blocking employees’ access to Facebook. The poll of 600 workers by online security firm Sophos also found that two-thirds of all employees believe their colleagues are revealing too much information on the social-networking site, exposing them to cybercriminals bent on data theft and their companies to network hackers.
  7. Bebo, the U.K.-centric social-networking site, has announced a partnership with Microsoft on a new instant-messaging service. According to Webware, the Windows Live Messenger hookup is only that–and not a signal of any impending acquisition.
  8. Joining the social-networking parade, online business network CollectiveX has launched Groupsites. According to Michael Arrington of TechCrunch, the new product opens up the buttoned-down service to allow users to create social profiles as well.
  9. Upping the ante in the competition for giving laptop users more memory, Toshiba announced today that it will release a 320-gigabyte hard drive for its laptops by the end of the year. According to IDG News Service, for users of multimedia laptops–where storing video is paramount–the extra space will come as a welcome feature.
  10. pinkipod.jpg

  11. In a bow to color choice and the sexes, researchers have found that there’s truth in the the time-honored (if sexist) adage that girls like pink, boys like blue. Reporting on a study from two scientists at Newcastle University, the Independent did not confirm whether the findings were borne out in colors chosen by men and women for iPod skins.

–posted by Associate Editor John Sullivan

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik