iFive: Intel's Israel Investment, Google Earth Hits Iran, Starbucks Smartphone App, Playboy on iPad, HP's WebOS Tablet Inbound

1. Intel, fresh from a record-breaking financial quarter, is investing $2.7 billion dollars in Israel to upgrade its existing chip production plant at Kiryat Gat. The site will expand by 1,000 staff and be the second Intel fab site in the world to produce smaller 22nm chips—sometime around December. The move reduces Intel's exposure to the vagaries of Far East economies and risk of earthquake interference with production.

2. As part of a warming in relations with Iran, the U.S. government is allowing sharing of some online services in the nation—and Google's leaping into the fray by permitting Google Earth to be downloaded there along with photo system Picasa and the Chrome browser. Detractors will worry about terrorist exploitation of Earth, but it's worth remembering the role the Internet played in the post-election protests there.

3. Starbucks was trialing a clever app that let users collect loyalty points and pay for coffee on their smartphones, with a scannable QR-code payment system that worked at the checkout. It's just rolling the service out across the U.S., deeming it a success which will please Starbucks fans. But it's also a positive sign that alternative phone-based payment systems like NFC that we're expecting this year will work.

4. Is Apple changing its long-standing ban on sexy content in the iTunes app store (sensing big money possibilities perhaps)? Seems that way when you learn that an uncensored Playboy app is coming to iPads with a complete back-catalog of images and content in tow—as confirmed by Hef himself. "Reading" on the iPad may never seem the same.

5. Is HP about to finally deliver on its promise of bigger and better WebOS devices, years after it bought failed smartphone maker Palm? Looks that way—from March we can expect millions of WebOS tablets to join the stream of up to 50 million mobile computers HP hopes to ship this year (so sources report).

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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