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The week in review: You've got AOL Time Warner

The FCC approved the merger of America Online and Time Warner with additional conditions, giving the companies a green light to complete their historic $250 billion union.

After a year of political wrangling and competitive challenges, the Federal Communications Commission gave a green light to the multibillion-dollar merger between America Online and Time Warner.

The approval came with three key restrictions beyond those already required by the Federal Trade Commission. The conditions apply to three specific areas: Internet access over high-speed cable lines, instant messaging via cable lines, and ownership issues between AT&T and Time Warner.

AOL Time Warner, as the new company will be called, will be able to reach virtually any household that uses the Internet, reads magazines, reads books, watches cable TV, or goes to the movies. The merger may also yield some interesting cooperation between the two companies, with benefits for consumers resulting in more entertainment titles available online.

Shiny new Apples
Looking to reenergize the Mac faithful and boost sagging sales, Apple CEO Steve Jobs opened the Macworld Expo by unveiling faster Power Macs that will reach speeds of 733MHz and come equipped with CD-RW drives.

Jobs also introduced a thinner, faster PowerBook and pushed back the release of Mac OS X to late March.

Although Mac fans applauded Apple's new DVD- and CD-burning software, some will be dismayed to learn that they don't have the hardware required to take full advantage of the programs. The iDVD, which lets Mac owners burn home movies and photos onto discs that can be played on a standard DVD player, only works if someone has a DVD-recordable drive. And that drive will be found only on the upcoming top-of-the-line Power Mac.

Driving technology
American automakers used the 2001 North American International Auto Show to showcase the ways they are using technology to enhance the driving experience and some new directions they are taking. But the event also highlighted how some forms of technology are passing them by.

General Motors' OnStar division will begin experimenting this year with location-based advertising beamed to vehicles through a cellular network. In addition to cheap gas alerts, drivers who indicate they want so-called push advertising could also become the target of other sales and marketing pitches.

GM executives are also looking at a switch from hardware--that is, cars--to software services. They claim to want to transform the world's largest manufacturing company into an application service provider. ASPs, which charge corporate clients for hosting expensive and complicated technology applications, have constituted one of the New Economy's trendiest business segments. In recent months, though, the sector has weathered closings and consolidation, and analysts say it has yet to mature.

As fast as automakers are speeding into the future, they are being left in the dust by much of today's technology. In a survey of 331 executives on three continents in seven distinct industries, researchers found that the automobile industry and its supply base ranked last in terms of technological preparedness and organizational commitment to digitization.

Go go gadget
As thousands gathered in Las Vegas to catch a glimpse of the latest in handy handhelds and goofy gadgets at the Consumer Electronics Show, Microsoft stole the show with the unveiling of its highly anticipated bid to gain a chunk of the lucrative video game market: the Xbox.

The debut was the finale of Bill Gates' keynote address, during which the Microsoft chairman also previewed Whistler, the next consumer version of the Windows operating system, and showed prototypes of several Pocket PC-powered gadgets.

Even Intel got into the act, unveiling a new portable digital audio player and showing prototypes of several other electronics devices, including a wireless Web tablet and a wireless chat device.

Hitachi America announced that it will have a DVD-RAM camcorder on retail shelves by the end of January. According to Hitachi, the DZ-MV100A will be the first camcorder on the market that records images onto a digital versatile disc.

Also of note
Amid a rapidly deteriorating PC market, Gateway reported fourth-quarter earnings below even lowered expectations, again slashed its 2001 forecast, and said it will cut at least 3,000 jobs--more than 10 percent of its work force...Cisco Systems and 3Com have delayed plans to ship a high-end home appliance that connects consumer electronics devices to the Internet, a sign that the home networking market isn't progressing as fast as hoped...Web portal AltaVista pulled plans for a $300 million initial public offering, citing poor market conditions...While Egghead.com spent weeks to determine that intruders did not access its 3.7 million-customer database, banks and credit unions paid millions of dollars to reissue credit cards and compensate workers for holiday overtime.