1. Google’s open NFC credit card secret is now confirmed: Launch partners The Container Store and Vivotech accidentally confirmed that the system is on its way in September, will be dubbed Google Wallet, and that it’ll all be revealed at the special Google event later today. The biggest give-away is Vivotech, which is, according to its own website, a firm that makes “NFC software and systems” for “rich mobile commerce solutions.” Watch this space later.
2. A surprisingly bold statement by prominent hedge fund manager David Einhorn has caught the public’s attention: Einhorn is asking Steve Ballmer to step down as CEO of Microsoft. Ballmer is stuck in the past, according to Einhorn, and is holding back his company from what it could become–he’s the “biggest overhand on Microsoft’s stock.” Einhorn’s Greenlight Capital has recently been investing into MS stock and now holds over 0.1% so has a vested interest in MS prosperity.
3. According to insiders, Apple U.K. is making a big effort to approach British tech journalists and entice them to attend the upcoming WWDC event. It’s unusual because a push like this really implies Apple has something big to reveal–and we’re not expecting anything particularly big. Is this a hint that the new cloud-based MobileMe is due? Cloud iTunes? A surprise early reveal of the iPhone 4S? Is the new OS X Lion actually ready for a public release?
4. Online gamers will be familiar with the idea of “gold farming,” where (for real money) you can buy digital assets (like virtual money) inside a multiplayer game like World of Warcraft that someone else has built up. Many farmers are Chinese, and now it’s emerged that Chinese prisoners had been forced to work as gold farmers to make an income for the prison authorities–with beatings as punishment if not enough gold was made. The practice was regulated against in 2009, but may still be occurring.
5. Net tech darling Ashton Kutcher has invested “significant” amounts of cash in Airbnb, a firm that’s like a clearing house for traveling and vacation activities. Kutcher will also join Airbnb as an official advisor, possibly leveraging his expertise in unusual marketing. Kutcher’s investment history includes big stakes in Skype (recently bought by Microsoft) and UberMedia–the firm that lost out on a deal to buy app maker TweetDeck which was just bought by Twitter itself.