THE BROWSER: Truth and rumors from the tech world
Apple may do Windows
The Mac maker may be shifting its stance on running Microsoft's operating system. Plus: Yahoo banks on Japan.
By Owen Thomas, Business 2.0 Magazine online editor and Oliver Ryan, FORTUNE reporter

SAN FRANCISCO (Business 2.0 Magazine) - Ever since Apple declared it was switching to Intel chips last year, Mac fans have been looking forward to the prospect of running both Windows and Mac OS X on the same machine. But those who have tried to load Windows onto a Mac have kept running into unexpected technical roadblocks. Apple's stance on the matter? "We won't stop you, but we won't help you."

That standoffishness may be coming to an end, however. The Gearlog blog reports that Apple has joined BAPCo, an organization that benchmarks the performance of systems that run Windows. It makes sense for Apple (Research) to compare the performance of its machines to similar Intel-based PCs, of course. But to participate in the tests, Gearlog notes, Apple will have to build support for Windows into Mac hardware.

Apple rings up an iPhone
Word from Taiwan is strong that Apple is lining up manufacturers for its own iPod-cell phone hybrid. Plus: Plaxo pledges to stop spamming. (more)

Yahoo Japan opens up its checkbook

Yahoo Japan shares jumped overnight on the news that it was in talks with Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group to create a venture that would give it a 30 percent interest in Japan Net Bank, SMFG's online bank. The acquisition would give Yahoo (Research) Japan, operator of the country's largest web portal, a payment service to support its online auctions and other e-commerce. WebProNews points out that the boundaries between commerce and banking are growing increasingly blurry.

For Yahoo Japan, whose auction service beat eBay (Research) to market and still dominates in that country, the deal may be a move to fend off competition from eBay's PayPal and Google's new payments service. It remains to be seen, however, if the current partnership will fare better than Yahoo's previously announced alliance with a different Japanese bank, Aozora, which collapsed due to partners' disagreements and corporate culture clashes.

Facebook social network might be up for sale

The Valley is buzzing over a report that privately held Facebook, the must-visit social network for college students, has turned down a $750 million buyout offer apparently holding out for a $2 billion deal down the road. SiliconBeat cautions that the story doesn't cite named sources, while Business 2.0 senior writer Om Malik suggests that Facebook's founders and investors should have taken the money and run.

Real plastic for virtual worlds

Chase already offers co-branded Visa cards for Yahoo and users. But banks have yet to tap into a potentially more lucrative market: online gamers. Make, a Webzine, has posted a blog entry on the increasing likelihood of private label credit cards for popular multiplayer online games like World of Warcraft and City of Heroes. Make editor Philip Torrone notes that there are already thriving underground economies in which gamers buy and sell virtual currencies -- and even make their real world living in virtual economies.

Supporting the theory, Microsoft (Research) told FORTUNE recently that xBox Live users have, since November, snapped up 500 million in "Microsoft points," equivalent to $6.25 million, with which they buy themes for their gaming environment as well as downloadable "arcade" games. There are some virtual things that money can't buy. For everything else, there's the World of Warcraft MasterCard. Top of page

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