Week in review: Google vs. Facebook, Chromebooks, Microsoft loves Skype

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Although the royal wedding and all those bank holidays are behind us, we still have plenty of other traditional British pastimes to keep us amused such as grumbling about the weather, swearing at public transport, dodging salads and only going to the dentist one every five years.

Outside these sceptered isles, the tech industry has had a fit of activity that has kept all of us here at IT PRO busy.

The netbook is dead, long live the netbook

The netbook has always been nothing more than an underpowered, but cheap and light laptop. The sandal-wearing, horn-rimmed glasses crowd has always insisted otherwise, claiming that netbooks are a completely new type of computer, but that just shows you what a complete bunch of numpties they are.

That may all be about to change though, thanks to Google finally releasing its cloud-based Chrome OS by pre-installing it on a pair of netbooks manufactured by Samsung and Acer.

Although these nauseatingly named 'Chromebooks' can be bought outright for a one-off price like any other netbook, businesses and educational institutions can buy them for a monthly subscription if they commit to a fixed term contract. In return, Google and its vast server farms take care of apps, backup, security, maintenance and support.

Although it remains to be seen how well Chrome OS works when deprived of internet access, the potential for Chromebooks to slash both IT support hassles and the amount of money spent on hardware and software is very enticing.

That sound you hear is Microsoft and antivirus vendors wringing their hands with worry, while outwardly laughing in derision at Google. Only time will tell whether this was the year when the cloud finally killed the desktop.

Can you hear me now?

$8.5 billion is a lot of money and could pay for a lot of things, such as vaccines for poor African children, renovated hospitals in several inner cities or a few duck houses in Westminster. If you're Microsoft, it buys you VoIP company Skype.

Putting aside the questions of whether Microsoft has more money than sense and whether Ballmer and his crew can run Skype better than old owners eBay, we're actually quite keen to see how this deal pans out. If nothing else, a version of Windows Phone 7 with Skype tightly built-in could give the operating system a fighting chance against the iPhone and Android.

Still, couldn't Ballmer have negotiated a cheaper licensing deal instead? That way, Microsoft could have given IT PRO the $8.5 billion instead we'd have show them a good time, oh yes.

Asocial networks

Even if you're a business, there are rules of etiquette to follow when using social networks. Such as not hiring a PR company to anonymously bad mouth Google , which is what Facebook has apparently been up to. If I were Larry Page, I would unfriend Mark Zuckerberg. Then again, perhaps he already has, especially if he's already seen The Social Network.