Facebook made its biggest purchase ever, Apple is steeling for a brawl with the U.S. government and Sony is slashing its workforce. Here are those tech stories and two more you didn't want to miss this week.
1. Facebook buys Instagram for $1 billion
The social-networking giant, worth an estimated $100 billion, bought the year-and-a-half old photo-sharing app Instagram for $1 billion earlier this week.
Instagram is an extremely popular smartphone app thats lets you take and share photos easily from a smartphone. There are 17 photo filters that can lend your snapshots an artsy and whimsical quality.
Why the heck is it worth $1 billion?
No one's quite sure. There was unconfirmed speculation that Facebook was in a bidding war with another company, helping drive up the price.
What is known for sure is that Instagram is extremely popular . Facebook, which says 400 million of its 800 million users check their Facebook on mobile each month, has plenty invested in making sure it maintains its popularity on mobile. Business analysts are saying that Facebook might never fully recoup the $1 billion spent directly, but the overall health of the company was buoyed.
Will Facebook ruin Instagram?
Fans of Instagram immediately freaked out after Facebook's purchase in fear the company would tinker with Instagram's simple mission or prevent photos from being shared on multiple social networks. These fears are (currently, at least) unfounded. Both Facebook and Instagram leadership say they are committed to preserving Instagram's charm.
2. Government, Apple tussle over your ebook prices
The legal battles between Apple, major book publishers and the U.S. government could lead to a drop in the prices you pay for ebooks.
What's the deal?
The Department of Justice filed anti-trust charges against Apple and major book publishers on Wednesday, saying Apple colluded with publishers to push up the prices of ebooks across the Web.
The DOJ says Apple allowed book publishers to set their own prices in the iBook store, but then made publishers agree to not sell ebooks for cheaper anywhere else on the Web. Amazon, the most popular ebook seller, had to raise prices to comply with publishers' requests.
Apple announced yesterday it would take the charges to court, saying its iBook store actually broke Amazon's own monopolistic grip on ebook sales.
What about my ebooks?
You can expect prices on some of your favorite books to fall. Three book publishers settled with the DOJ rather than fight the case. They are renegotiating deals with Amazon that could lead to a return of $9.99 best-sellers as part of the settlement.
3. New Nook makes reading with a flashlight in bed obsolete
Some our fondest memories were sneaking a flashlight into bed so we could read after bedtime. So it's bittersweet for us that Barnes and Nobles new Nook makes flashlight-reading a thing of the past.
The new Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight has an E ink screen that lets you read in bright sunlight and a built-in nightlight that gently illuminates the screen at lights-out. It can store about 1,000 books, but does not have cellular access, so you'll need to access Wi-Fi for downloads.
Pros: It's easier than ever for children to hide their book and pretend to be asleep when parents barge in to make sure they're sleeping.
Cons: Children will be coming to school chronically tired.
The $139 Nook will be available in early May.
4. Nokia doubles down on new Windows Phone
Once the world's most dominant cellphone maker, Nokia is now mired in third behind Samsung and Apple.
The company reiterated this week that it is betting big that the new Lumia 900, which runs a Windows operating sytem, will help turn the company's fortunes around.
•The Windows Phone operating system was on 1.8% of all phones sold in 2011.
•Android was on 49.2% of all phones sold and Apple's iOS was on 18.8%.
•You can get the Lumia 900 from AT&T for $100 with a two-year contract. That's about $100 cheaper than an iPhone 4S or top-end Android handset.
The Lumia debuted to good, but not great reviews.
5. Sony cuts 10,000 jobs
The electronics behemoth Sony slashed 10,000 jobs from its global workforce of 170,000 in an effort to return the company to profitability.
•Sony projects it lost $6.4 billion in 2011.
•The company says it will reduce the number of TV models it offers by 40% this year.
•Sony says it hopes to turn a $2.3 billion profit by 2013.
Other than the reduction in TV models, it's not yet clear how this will affect Sony's future product lines.