Week in review: Controversy from Cupertino to Capitol Hill

Congress rethinks Real ID, but it might be too late; Steve Jobs responds to stock option allegations with snark; and The Simpsons' video game debut is announced.

This week's events on Capitol Hill showed that it's going to be an uphill battle for opponents of the controversial Real ID Act.

Real ID, enacted two years ago without hearings or debates by the then-Republican controlled Congress as part of an emergency military spending package, requires state governments to issue driver's licenses that adhere to the Department of Homeland Security's new standards. Eventually, Americans without the IDs will not be able to enter federal buildings, open bank accounts, or fly on commercial airlines. Opposition to the Real ID act has mounted on both sides of the political spectrum, from reasons ranging from privacy concerns to the cost of the initiative--$23.1 billion over the next decade. Seven states have already brought forth legislation opposing the act.

But hearings this week showed that while opposition is widespread, it's going to be tough to turn around a law that's already this far along in the enactment process. The deadline to file comments on the act was Tuesday afternoon. Real ID, essentially, is ready to go.

CNET News.com readers were divided on the issue. "What really bothers me is the feds basically taking over the state ID and license programs," one reader said. "There is a clear separation between state and federal in our constitution. Let's keep it that way." Others seemed to think that Real ID could improve an identification system that's often outdated and inefficient. "There needs to be a new identification system," a reader related. "I was once mistaken for a person with the same name by the police and ended up waiting in the back of a police car for about a half hour while they figured out what was going on. I happened to be on my way to work."

In the boardroom

Meanwhile, at the same time that political junkies were wondering whether Congress would snub Real ID, the corporate world was watching the ongoing story of whether billionaire investor Carl Icahn, who owns nearly 3 percent of Motorola and has expressed that he believes the company is being mismanaged, would win a seat on the mobile handset manufacturer's board of directors. On Tuesday, it appeared that this battle had ended, at least for now, with Icahn failing to earn a spot on the board. Motorola, which had urged shareholders not to vote for Icahn, saw its stock dip a bit, but some analysts say it likely won't impact the company in the long run. Motorola has bigger issues than its management, they say.

"The principal issue for the company in the near term," said Scott Swanson, a senior analyst at Crowell Weedon & Co., "is getting new innovative products into the market that people are willing to pay a lot of money to buy."

There was also apparently some unusual boardroom activity going on at News Corp. Sources are saying that one of the media conglomerate's hottest properties, social-networking site MySpace, has purchased image-sharing service Photobucket for somewhere around $250 million. It's by no means as earth-shattering as any of the media acquisition rumors that circulated last week (if they prove to be true), but it's a big deal considering that MySpace and Photobucket had recently been at odds over Photobucket's embeddable widgets. Claiming they violated MySpace's terms of use with a Spider-Man 3 advertising tie-in widget, the social network banned Photobucket slide shows and videos from its members' profiles.

The ban was later revoked, but it was a high-profile corporate spat that could easily have made MySpace seem like a bully, or Photobucket seem like a surreptitious marketer--depending on whose side you take.

Now that it's looking as if Photobucket will become a MySpace property, CNET News.com readers were somewhat cynical about the rumored buy. "Typical of 900-pound gorillas," one observed. Another said, "I'll bet this means all other types of photo-submission services will suddenly cease to work with MySpace."

Later this week, Apple CEO Steve Jobs shrugged off allegations of stock options backdating and less-than-top-notch environmental policies at the company's annual meeting of shareholders. Several proposals were brought up with the intention of reforming the company's option-dating policies and executive compensation, but all were shot down in a vote.

While Jobs receives a salary of just $1 per year, he also has about 5.5 million Apple shares (now valued at $108 each), making him the highest-paid CEO in America in 2006, according to a recent ranking by Forbes magazine. Apple continues to come under scrutiny for the stock options fiasco, but shareholders don't seem too concerned--the company's profits are soaring, and they're making money.

Santa Rosa laptops

On the lighter side of tech news, plenty of product unveilings happened this week. Intel showed off the latest Centrino laptop chips, which had been code-named Santa Rosa. They come in two versions--Centrino Duo for home users and Centrino Pro for businesses--and have extra support for flash memory and faster Wi-Fi connections. The Centrino Pro chips come with new technology that makes it easier for IT technicians to remotely diagnose and fix system problems, even if the computer in question can't be rebooted. At the same time, Intel also plans to ramp up the graphics capabilities of its processors, in the wake of competition from rival Advanced Micro Devices.

Some consumer electronic products also were rolled out this week: Pioneer unveiled new high-end plasma television technology, and Samsung launched its new Q1 Ultra ultramobile PC, attempting to iron out the kinks from the poorly received first-generation Q1.

Finally, Electronic Arts has announced it will be releasing a video game this fall based on the longtime-hit cartoon show and upcoming movie, The Simpsons. It'll be available on just about every video game console out there (Sony's PlayStation 2, 3, and PSP; Nintendo's Wii and DS; and Microsoft's Xbox 360), so the chances are good that a whole lot of gamers are about to get used to saying "D'oh!"--assuming they aren't already.

Also of note

In Washington, politicians talk online video...Microsoft puts its Viridian virtualization software on a diet in order to get it out of the gate more quickly...IBM and Amazon.com bury the hatchet over a bitter patent dispute that had both sides suing each other...Quarterly earnings announcements roll in across the tech landscape.

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