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Apple buys out $1bn data center squatters

$1.7m in cash, catfish, bass, sofa

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Who says the US housing market is dead? One Northern Carolina couple just received $1.7m for their one-story home on less than a acre of land that they bought for $6,000. The buyer? Steve Jobs & Co.

It seems that Donnie and Kathy Fulbright's home was on land that Apple needed for its $1bn data center, according to a report from Bloomberg.

"They told us to put a price on it and we did," Ms. Fulbright said. That was after she and Donnie had turned down two previous Jobsian offers.

The Fulbrights have used their Cupertinian largess well: the couple now presides over a 49-acre estate with 4,200-square-foot home and a pond stocked with bass and catfish.

Sometimes being in Steve Jobs's way can pay off.

Not that $1.7m is even a fiscal flea flick for the world's second-largest company. Even the $1bn for the new data center is relative chump change when you consider that Apple's most recent fiscal quarter came in at $1bn over expectations.

"Oh, we found an extra billion. That's nice," you can hear Apple's bean counters cooing.

And that data center will surely rake in additional billions when it comes online late this year or early next. Being masterminded by eBay and AT&T veteran Olivier Sanche, the massive 500,000-square-foot facility will almost certainly host Apple's iAd mobile-advertising platform, along with streaming content to the Apple TV, iPad, and elsewhere.

What's not known are Jobs's other plans — after all, $1bn bought him a lot of bandwidth and compute power. Is he cooking up a Facebook challenger, with his new and improved "social networking for music" effort, Ping, as his testbed? Might he be preparing, as is widely expected, to move iTunes from a download-and-save storefront model to a download-while-listening cloudy service?

Might he even be thinking of battling Google head-on by instituting his own search service?

That last possibility, we admit, comes from far out in left field — but in this wacky, fast-paced digital wonderland, anything is possible. A mere decade or so ago, who would have thought that by 2010 it would be Microsoft reeling and Apple rocking?

We didn't. And admit it, neither did you.

In any case, whatever Jobs & Co choose to do in what was once their backyard, the Fulbrights can watch it from their spacious new living room — which, Bloomberg reports, contains a lovely leather sofa. ®

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