iFive: Facebook's 2012 IPO, Mac App Store Piracy, Ballmer Bullish on Xbox, Hulu Plus on Android, FCC's Net-Neutrality App Prize

For reasons no one understands, the volume of spam email slushing around the intertubes has undergone an extraordinary drop. In August over 200 billion spam emails were sent, but in December the figure suddenly slumped to 50 billion. Champagne all 'round, I'd say. On with the real news:

1. After accusations that Facebook's financial disclosure to Goldman Sachs clients revealed much higher than expected profits, the Wall Street Journal is now intimating that Facebook is "setting the stage" for an IPO in early next year--certainly by April 2012. Much of the reasoning has to do with 50-year old FTC regulations, nosing around by journos, and market thirst for shares in a $50 billion global new-tech firm.

2. Apple's Mac App Store opened yesterday, ready to change Apple's software ecosystem and subtly change the notion of ownership (individuals own Mac Apps, not computers) but there's already controversy: The store's wide open for piracy, and one hacker is threatening to reveal the hack that'll let users get all the code for free.

3. According to Microsoft's Steve Ballmer, the Xbox as a brand easily eclipses Apple in the minds of young consumers, and MS dominated "what we call the entertainment side of their lives." It's proof that there's a pitched battle underway for mindshare and marketshare in gaming. We do wonder if Steve carefully chose "Apple" in the phrase, though, as "iPod" is pretty likely to be at a similar level as "Coke" for these kids.

4. Hulu is on a charge, but until now its Hulu Plus expansion into the mobile space was limited to iPads or iPhones. No longer: Hulu's revealed the subscription service will soon be coming to Android handsets and "mobile phones." Now incorporated into more connected TVs, and coming to Vizio and Haier devices later in the year, Hulu is only getting bigger.

5. With not one trace of irony, the FCC is launching an app-making competition where the object is to write apps that verify how accurate mobile Net providers claims are when they explain their net neutrality-busting traffic shaping rules. It all comes in the wake of the recent rules which permit mobile ISPs to decide who gets what kind of service. But you may not hunger for the prize: a dinner with the FCC's boss.

To read more news on this, and similar stuff, keep up with my updates by following me, Kit Eaton, on Twitter.

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