1. Microsoft has closed its guerrilla design/thinktank lab Pioneer Studios--the group behind the highly praised but then cancelled Courier tablet concept. J Allard, the chap behind the original Xbox and much of its innovation, championed Pioneer as an attempt to introduce entrepreneurial spirit, consumer-focussed design and innovative thinking into the greater inertia-laden Microsoft monolith. But Allard left in 2010, possibly dooming his thinktank.
2. Cell network Orange, in partnership with Mastercard just brought wave-and-pay NFC credit cards in smartphones to the U.K., enabling "Quick Tap" contactless payment in over 50,000 locations--including McDonald's. The system uses a SIM card-based NFC device, in a Samsung Tocca Lite as the launch handset, and Mastercard's QuickPay app to perform the transactions. It's a taste of greater things to come.
3. Apple has several bits of news this morning: It looks like it has landed a Sony Music deal for its cloud iTunes (leaving Warner the last man standing), more details have emerged about the Stores makeover. It's also denying Amazon's claim that "App Store" is a generic term, and Verizon's CEO has hinted they'll get the iPhone 5 at the same time as everyone else--underlining the fact it's a world phone, with multiple compatibilities.
4. Just as, sadly, Google abandons its plans to archive the world's old newspapers, it's made a move that might change how we think about book publishing: It's enabled word look-ups in its Google Books system, as well as in-text translation at the click of a button. Need to look up a historic reference but don't speak Latin? Google can now help--without the need for you to hunt a translated version of the text.
5. HP's highly anticipated TouchPad tablet now has a price, and will take up shelf space at Walmart for $599 for the 32GB Wi-Fi model--pitched exactly to match Apple's 32GB iPad 2. HP is also said to have boxed the tablet in a similar way to Apple's device, which may alert the clone complainers. There's no release date as yet but the TouchPad and its array of peripherals could hit as soon as June 1st.