iFive: RIM PlayBook Reviews, PC Sales Slump?, Intel Embraces USB 3.0, Spotify Preps For U.S., Safari Gains "Do Not Track"

1. RIM's embargo on review editions of its PlayBook tablet expired this morning, so the news is full of expert opinion on the tablet PC RIM hopes will revive its future fortunes. The consensus? "Nice...but not wonderful." The Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg had the toughest to say: Designating it as a tablet "with a co-dependency" it's much more "a companion to a BlackBerry phone rather than" an independent device. Other reviewers seem to think similarly about the tablet's lack of built-in email, contacts, and calendar apps.

2. Analyst firm IDC has just released its latest clutch of statistics about PC market sales in the U.S., and among the data two figures stand out: In the first quarter of 2011, PC sales (excluding tablets) tumbled 10.7%. Big name netbook vendor Acer took the biggest hit (reflecting cannibalization by the iPad?) with a 42.1% slump versus the previous quarter. Meanwhile Toshiba grabbed 10% more sales, and Apple achieved 9.6% growth.

3. USB 3.0 has been with us for a while now, promising to be the future of data connections to your PC thanks to its big speed. Except Intel had shunned the protocol, opting to promote its own system which Apple now incorporates into Thunderbolt. That's all changed: Intel has revealed its support for USB 3, coming in the Ivy Bridge chips due in 2012, and has told its developers to work on both protocols. Intel rival AMD just made the same move.

4. Spotify, the highly successful Europe-based music streaming service, is taking steps to prepare for its U.S. launch, say observers. The system has offered its users a certain amount of free access, but the firm has just halved that amount from 20 hours per month down to 10, and each track has a five play limit. It's a trick designed to get more users to subscribe--which will improve Spotify's cash position, and bargaining power with twitchy U.S. record groups.

5. The "do not track" movement, aimed at protecting users from sharing too much data with advertisers and other bodies as they surf the web, has gained another prominent ally: Apple. In its upcoming Lion OS X upgrade, Apple's adding the feature to its Safari browser. Now Steve Jobs' company is aboard, alongside Microsoft and Mozilla, Google's Chrome is the last big-name browser left unchanged. It's worth highlighting Google is the king of online advertising.

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