iFive: AOL Job Cuts, SpaceX Expands Facility, Apple-Canon Partnership, UAV Automatic Refueling, Pop-Up Apple SXSW Store

1. AOL is expected to lay off between 400 and 500 people in the U.S. today (about 8-10% of its staff), as part of its push to make itself more profitable. The content side of AOL is likely to take the biggest hit, due to the new acquisition of Huffington Post--Jonathon Dube, VP of news is one of them. Meanwhile AOL is also cutting 400 staffers in India, and transitioning 300 more to contractor status.

2. One leader in the fledgling commercial space industry in the U.S. is already expanding its operations: SpaceX has just signed a lease in Texas that'll more than double the size of its construction, testing and design facilities in MacGregror. The lease for 631 acres is good for ten years, and demonstrates just how serious Elon Musk's space biz is about meeting its 12 flight agreement to supply the ISS in the post-Space Shuttle era.

3. Rumors are swirling that Apple may be entering a partnership with industry-leading photography experts Canon, to boost various aspects of Apple's extensive image-based systems. The collaboration could tie Apple software to Canon DSLRs or use Canon expertise in more consumer-level code like MobileMe. If true, it's a sign that Apple is very keen to expand the strength of its imaging software offerings--an increasingly important part of its business (now even the iPad has two cameras too).

4. Demonstrating the future of air surveillance and combat, the U.S. has just completed the first trial of air-to-air automated refueling between two high-altitude UAVs--a Proteus test bed and a real Boeing Global Hawk surveillance aircraft. The two vehicles closed to within 40 feet at 45,000 feet altitude to test automated rendezvous plans, including turbulence issues. A real refueling is expected early 2012. Why's it interesting? Because it could let spy drones fly almost continuously over war zones.

5. Apple's trying something interesting at SXSW this week--it's opening a pop-up store to sell goods and generally promote brand awareness. The sprawling music and media conference is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, and since over 175,000 people went last year, Apple's certainly hoping to tap the pop-up store trend and show its wares--such as the iPad 2, which you may have heard something about.

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