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Sample The Web’s Top tech stories for the week of July 12th-18th, 2009

Reminder: this list is largely culled from taking a look at my 500+ feeds in Fever’s Hot section for the past week.

  1. Amazon wirelessly removed Kindle Editions of George Orwell books from people’s Kindles. The entire internet exploded in alarmist uproar, as it is wont to do, and Amazon issued a statement noting that it would never do this again. Although I’m anti-DRM and I like where Amazon ended this issue, I wasn’t very happy watching it unfold, not because of Amazon, but because of how everyone reacted. If you looked at this story beyond the headlines and actually did some investigation into what happened (most early posts about this didn’t), you’d see that the copy of 1984 that was removed from everyone’s Kindles was an unauthorized copy. Someone who didn’t own the rights to the book published it and sold it on Amazon, abusing Amazon’s rather open publishing platform (you can publish DRM free titles on it; you can also publish DRMed titles on it) to steal content and redistribute it. Also, Amazon refunded everyone the money for the item removed. It seems to me like Amazon could have done a better job of communicating what was happening and some people could have done a better job of initially reporting on it (instead of jumping to hyperbolic claims of this being a “Big Brotherian plot”; it sure sounds poetic given the books that were removed, but it isn’t good reporting).Keep in mind, none of these multiple stolen copies of this book would have been sellable in the non-digital world that we’re all used to reading books in. They would have been photocopied, taped together slabs of paper, sitting on a bookshelf next to nicely-bound official copies of the same works, so that neither Amazon nor Amazon’s customers would have been fooled into participating in theft in the first place.

    What Amazon should have done: Amazon should have removed the titles in question from its store, emailed its customers informing them that Amazon had mistakenly sold and they had mistakenly bought stolen copies of these works, told its customers that it was refunding their money, pointed to another legal copy of the books in question (if they exist in Kindle format; if not point to the paper copies), and ask their customers to kindly delete the stolen copies from their devices.

    How everyone should have reacted: any way other than the way everyone did, which effectively amounted to the modern day equivalent of screaming burn the witch! Amazon, just like all of us, is learning to deal with its own technology. There are going to be growing pains like this. I just hope we all learn, rather than everyone simply mobbing up, screaming at Amazon, and demanding justice in the face of actions that were meant—however poorly they were executed—to be just. If I were a suspicious-type (I am), I would think that someone published these specific books illegally on Amazon in the hopes that exactly the type of ridiculous explosion of news would result from his/her actions in order to reveal everyone involved to be fools.

  2. Twittergate happened this week. I already wrote about it over in this post, so I won’t bother repeating myself here.
  3. Microsoft is launching a music streaming service sometime this month and it may tie in to Xbox. This story bores me, as we already have Pandora and Last.fm. Why do I need a third option from Microsoft? It’ll probably require either Windows Media Player (yuck) or Silverlight (boo) to run, so thanks but no thanks.
  4. Apple announced that there were over 1.5 billion App downloads from the App Store in the first year. Since there are roughly just a bit over 65,000 apps according to the same press release, if you divide that 1.5 billion by the number of apps available that comes out to 23,077, a number that means nothing really. Actually, all that any of these numbers mean is that Apple is making a lot of money off of iPhone/iPod touch apps.
  5. Microsoft Office 2010 is on its way and will come with free web-based versions of Word, PowerPoint, Excel and OneNote. This is interesting in that it’s clearly aimed to unsettle Google (and it was effective enough to send Google in a pre-Microsoft’s announcement press release barrage of announcement-ware last week). Also, check out the movie that Microsoft put together for Office 2010.
  6. Google added My Location awareness to Mobile Safari on the iPhone. Translation: you can now use your iPhone to search for things close to where you currently are directly from Google in the iPhone’s browser. Neat.
  7. Palm’s Mojo SDK for developing apps for the WebOS that runs on the Palm Pre is now available for anyone who wants to take a crack at developing for the Palm Pre. Neat, but I doubt they’ll reach 1.5 billion downloads in the same year. Total aside (and not really one of the hottest stories of the week): the latest iTunes update totally blocked the Palm Pre’s ability to use iTunes for managing its music. Ouch.
  8. The rumors of an Apple Tablet computer returned this week with information placing it at about $800 with a 9.7-inch screen and arriving in October. I doubt it.
  9. Apple supposedly hated Microsoft’s laptop ads enough to ask Microsoft to stop running them. Since this news comes from Microsoft, I doubt it’s true. Also, watch the spoof of these ads that Brian embedded on his blog. Funny stuff.
  10. $15 steadicam project is badass. I need to build this myself complete with a tripod mount for the iPhone 3GS.

Other things happened, but nothing that amazed me. Let me know in the comments below if you think I missed something amazing.

See last week’s tech stories roundup.