Strange New World: Tech Picks of the Week

This week Apple's big rocking announcement dominated the tech news, but did Microsoft manage to steal some of its thunder? Also, now that Google has finished scanning in all the classic works of literature, it's moved on to your hometown newspapers. So much for microfiche. Finally, the U.S. Senate is looking into an issue near and dear to the youth of America -- the rising cost of text messaging. Here are our picks of the week.

Don't Forget the Zune

As usual, Microsoft tried to take some of the sting out of Apple's new iPod announcement this week by announcing its new lineup of Zune mp3 players first. And as usual it really didn't work that well. The funny thing is, there is a certain amount of similarity between both lines of players this time around and people may actually stop and think about getting a Zune. The new iPod Nano and the lower-end Zune match up quite well. Both have 8 GB and 16 GB players that sell for $149 and $199. Also, the most storage you can get in either line is 120 GB, and both lines now feature software that "recommends" playlists and songs you should listen to after analyzing your history.

What's Google Doing Now?

Google has begun to scan the archives of major daily newspapers and will eventually make them searchable online. For the past two years, Web surfers have been able to search the archives of major newspapers that have digital versions via Google News.

Once these new newspapers have been digitized, they too will be searchable via keywords and presented just as they were in their original print versions. Of course, Google will run its ads alongside of these digitized microfilms, but the company did pay for the scanning. Google is working with more than 100 newspapers right now and hopes to expand the program in the future.

Why Does Texting Cost So Much?

It looks as if the U.S. Senate is finally looking into the really big problems that are plaguing the country. Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wisc.), the chairman of the Senate's antitrust panel, just sent a four-page letter to Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile questioning their text message pricing structures.

Kohl's concern is not only about the cost of text messaging, but also about how the four companies – which service 90 percent of U.S. cell phone users – raised their prices at the same time.

"It appears that each of companies has changed the price for text messaging at nearly the same time, with identical price increases," Kohl said. "This conduct is hardly consistent with the vigorous price competition we hope to see in a competitive marketplace."

The senator is just asking questions now and no subpoenas have been filed, but we will definitely be watching this story.

Jonathan Blum and Dan Evans co-host "Strange New World," a weekly syndicated radio show. Blum hosts the blog Blumsday.com and Evans is a features editor at PC Magazine.

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