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'Maybe we'll just call them 'Surface-like devices'

Plus: Boffins get excited over the 'heaviest boson ever found'

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Quotw This was the week when a few patent skirmishes came to head as Samsung failed to get a stay on the bans Apple won on both the Galaxy Tab 10.1 and the Galaxy Nexus smartphone in the US. Meanwhile, in the UK, a judge ruled HTC had not infringed on four of Apple's patents – and added that three of them were invalid anyway. Oh, and Apple emptied its pockets of loose change to pay Proview a paltry (in fruity firm terms) $60m for the trademark to the name IPAD.

This was also the week when ex-Microsoft chief Bill Gates said that nobody really needs an iPad, what they need is a device that combines the benefits of a PC with the tablet form factor, like... hmmm... let me think... the Surface?

He told PBS:

Whatever you call Surface, they will want to have it. We'll call it a Windows device. When you have two device categories and merge them together, there's always the question of which name survives. Because the PC has been the super-seller ... it has a keyboard and a breadth of rich inputs.. maybe we'll call them PCs.

Or maybe we need a new term: maybe we'll just called them 'Surface-like devices'.

That may be the future Bill, but for the moment Microsoft is feeling the heat from the likes of Apple and Google. Perhaps that's why the once-king of the tech world decided to sneak Skype onto business PCs disguised as an update.

Redmond had to pull the plug on an update that installed Skype 5.9 on PCS, whether they had already had the VoIP client or not. Sysadmins, naturally, were not impressed.

One said:

I administer several banks that belong to a holding company. I had to dispatch techs immediately to remove the software from appx 25 machines first thing this morning because they are in the middle of an IT audit and Skype is definitely not going to pass.

And that wasn't the only embarrassment for the software firm this week. Microsoft also had to admit that it hadn't turned into an advertising business extraordinaire on the strength of its acquisition of aQuantive. In fact, the mega-acquisition was not a very good idea at all.

Five years after laying out $6.3bn for aQuantitive, Microsoft is wiping nearly that exact same amount off its balance book. Redmond understated:

While the aQuantive acquisition continues to provide tools for Microsoft’s online advertising efforts, the acquisition did not accelerate growth to the degree anticipated, contributing to the write down.

In the States, Full Tilt poker CEO Raymond Pitar handed himself over to the Feds to face charges of running a Ponzi scheme. Bitar is being accused of taking players' cash that was supposed to be used for payouts and giving it to company directors instead.

FBI assistant director-in-charge Janice Fedarcyk said:

Bitar and Full Tilt Poker persisted in soliciting US gamblers long after such conduct was outlawed. As alleged, Bitar has already been charged with defrauding banks to conceal the illegal gambling.

Now he stands accused of defrauding Full Tilt’s customers by concealing its cash-poor condition and paying off early creditors with deposits from later customers. The online casino become an internet Ponzi scheme.

Meanwhile, prosecutors are looking for stiff penalties for the guy who stole nude photos of Scarlett Johansson.

Christopher Chaney pleaded guilty in March to hacking into the email accounts of numerous celebs including Mila Kunis and Scarlett Johansson and then changing their settings to forward emails to accounts under his control.

The Feds said when he was arrested:

Investigators determined that Chaney distributed some of the files he obtained illegally, including photos of celebrities, and offered them to various celebrity blog sites. Some of the illegally obtained files, including private photographs, were ultimately posted online as a result of Chaney’s alleged activities.

The government reckons that Chaney should spend a chunk of time in prison as well as compensating his victims. It's recommending 71 months in prison and payments of $7,500 to Christina Aguilera, $66,179.46 to Scarlett Johansson and $76,767.35 to The Secret Life of the American Teenager actress Renee Olstead.

And in probably the most momentous science news in some time, physicists may have found the key to unlocking the final mysteries of the universe in the form of the first almost-certain glimpse of the God particle, or Higgs-like boson in boffin-speak.

CERN spread the good news that both ATLAS and CMS had "seen" the Higgs at a much higher level of certainty than ever before.

CMS experiment spokesman Joe Incandela said:

The results are preliminary, but the 5 sigma signal at around 125 GeV we’re seeing is dramatic. This is indeed a new particle. We know it must be a boson and it’s the heaviest boson ever found.

Whether or not (and maybe more so if not) the boson is exactly how Professor Higgs envisioned it or the Standard Model expects it, the tiny particle is on its way to helping physicists understand the unknown universe of unseen matter and dark energy. So at least boffins will understand the universe, even if they're not quite able to explain it to anyone else... ®

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