iFive: Egypt Online Again, Bing Copies Google, Google's Hotpot Goes Global, Smartphone Market Wars, E-Book Price Fixes

It's Groundhog Day, folks...so let's hope the little furry guy in Punxsutawney predicts an early Spring, and an end to the snowpocalypse that's blanketing the U.S. at the moment. On with the news:

1. After days of being disconnected, there are emerging reports that the Internet is accessible again in Egypt. It's not clear if it's all ISPs under a government mandate, or whether a unilateral decision was made, but it'll be welcome news to people inside the nation trying to coordinate protests, and those outside trying to track events or missing loved ones. Google exec Wael Ghonim is still on this missing list.

2. A huge spat is erupting between Google and Bing, after Google conducted a honeypot search phrase "sting" operation and discovered that Bing is apparently copying the search behavior of Google (by monitoring what people search for on Google then eventually click) to improve its own search relevancy. The debate about whether it's illegal, immoral, or just normal practice is exploding right now.

3. Meanwhile Google is trying to steal business from a whole army of competitors, with a roll-out of Google Hotpot all round the world. It's a local recommendation engine "based on your tastes and those of your friends." It's arrived on Google.com when accessed from a desktop machine, and has rolled out to smartphones—Android and iPhones alike—where it'll be a blow to competitor apps like AroundMe, or Yelp.

4. Which smartphone is leading the U.S. mobile market? According to new Nielsen data it's none of 'em! The iPhone, Android OS, and RIM BlackBerrys are all tied with approximately 27% of the market each (with the remainder shared out between PalmOS, Windows Phone 7, and Windows Mobile). In December 2010 Nielsen also found that 31% of Americans owned a smartphone—a figure that's only going to rise.

5. With perfect timing (as Apple and News Corp. try to reinvent the newspaper on the iPad later today) the U.K.'s Office of Fair Trading is launching an investigation into e-book price fixing, following a "significant number" of complaints from Brits angry that their digital books cost almost the same on different services, and as much as their paper books. Will the government smack Apple and Amazon on the hand for bad behavior? Watch this space for developments.

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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