iFive: Apple’s New Macs, Disney Buys Togetherville, Xoom Trademark Row, Apple Shareholders Vote on Jobs, Space Shuttle Launch

Thursday’s here, full of promise–so let’s get you up to speed on the early news:

On this day in history this day became history. In 1582 Pope Gregory XIII issued his papal bull that defined our new calendar–the Gregorian one we all think of as normal. And today, possibly another historic moment, a British court has granted Swedish demands to extradite WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on sex crime charges. On with the news:


1. Today is Apple day, part one–ahead of next week’s iPad 2 reveal (scheduled for March 2nd) the computer maker is expected to reveal an updated lineup of its hot-selling MacBook Pro laptops. Current rumors suggest the make-over may be less dramatic than has been expected, but will include a next-gen connectivity protocol from Intel based on Light Peak–dubbed Thunderbolt in Apple’s implementation.

2. Proving that social networking is for all, not just the grown-ups, Disney’s just handed over an undisclosed sum to purchase Togetherville is a social network for kids younger than 10 years old, where kids can chat to each other and parents can control the situation so it remains age-appropriate. Presumably Disney has sensed that one way to deeper embed its brand in kid’s minds is via social media.

3. Motorola’s Xoom tablet is all over the tech press thanks to its odd status as one of the hottest competitors to the iPad, but also because it’s high pricing is controversial. Now there’s another controversy: Online payment firm Xoom Corporation has filed a trademark suit in California that asks for temporary restraining order on sales of the Xoom. Oops.

4. At an Apple shareholder meeting late yesterday, two big decisions were made: The group voted to give itself more control over executive hiring and firing, and it also–and this is the big one–voted to keep decisions about a succession strategy for CEO Steve Jobs a trade secret. COO Tim Cook presided over the meeting, since Jobs himself is on an extended medical leave of absence, which is the primary motivation for these votes.

5. In several hours Space Shuttle history will be made–if all goes well the final flight of Space Shuttle discovery will begin at 4:50 p.m. EST. Discovery is the oldest remaining shuttle, and this launch has been plagued with a sequence of technical slip-ups and problems that have brought intense scrutiny on the program’s flight safety–and highlighted why it’s time to retire the Shuttle and develop new rockets.

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