iFive: Schmidt’s Facebook-Scraping, Diaspora’s Open Social, Skyhook Sues Google, SMS Taxes, Europe’s Moon Rover

As you digest your breakfast, here’s today’s early news, pre-digested for your convenience.

If you’re reading this on your smartphone as you slurp a cuppa joe, then you’re possibly part of the 35% of U.S. folk who use a smartphone, according to a Pew survey. And if you’re a smartphone fan, then you’ll have seen HTC’s new units revealed yesterday: They got the tech world a bit excited, with all sorts of Apple-beating talk. But one thing HTC can’t beat Apple on is price. It looks like the new Desire Z is going to cost around €500 ($650) which is right up there with the iPhone. Oops.


1. Google’s Eric Schmidt has been making a lot of noise about Facebook. We know how Google would like to get its hands on the entire company. We also know it would like the real-time data streaming from Facebookers, though perhaps it cares a little less now it’s got Twitter on board. The other thing Facebook has left–possibly the only thing of real value in it–that Google would like is its network structure, the pattern of who is friends with whom. And now Schmidt has noted that his company will be working out how to get the data and use it to build a social angle into the business. (Google search boosted with some Google Me perhaps?) Is he hinting at actions that are some kind of ill-defined digital crime? Nobody knows. Just follow the story as Facebook responds sometime later today: Because when two Goliaths like this battle over your reams of personal data, it’s important.

2. Facebook may or may not be evil, but its mistreatment of user data has prompted coders to pull together an open source rival. It’s called Diaspora, and after months of development its team has just released the source code to the world. “This is now a community project” the team’s declared, noting “development is open to anyone with the technical expertise who shares the vision of a social network that puts users in control.” It looks pretty smart, and the core functionality of building friend networks and securely sharing data with them is in place. Next up: More development (including, oddly, “integration with Facebook”) and the world watching to see if it can become a valuable Facebook rival (at least for open-source geeks).

3. Google’s motto may be “don’t be evil” but that seems not to have translated into real-world action: Skyhook, makers of Wi-Fi assisted AGPS platforms, are suing Google because they forced manufacturers of Android phones to terminate contracts with Skyhook and use similar (but inferior) Google tech for the same job. There’s even a patent infringement claim in there along with the business bullying allegation. Would Google use its close ties with handset makers like HTC and Motorola to pull off this trick? It’s plausible, but only a court can decide.

4. Where innovation rushes in, taxation often tiptoes behind–and now T-Mobile USA is considering charging an additional fee to business who use its network for SMS updates. We’re talking about Twitter updates and sports scores and the like, and of course it’s not a “real” tax in the wicked government sense, but it’ll still cost someone something. It may impact the profits of companies that currently rely on the system, and ultimately that’ll pass on to these company’s clients. Isn’t fiscal magic wonderful?

5. Obama may be having unscientific (and almost promise-breaking) rethinks about NASA’s future trips to the moon, but Europe is being decisive: It’s just given €6.5 million to EADS to complete detailed design work on an unmanned lunar probe/rover spacecraft. It’s destination will be the south pole, and among other thing’s it’ll be helping in the search for water, which could aid future manned missions to our nearest neighbor.

To keep up with this news, follow me, Kit Eaton, on Twitter.

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