Breakfast Briefing: Apple dismisses cheap iPhones, Skype update brings Outlook integration, Linux rifle

Breakfast briefing

In today's tech news round-up: Apple writes off cheap iPhone rumours and much more

We round off the week with Apple dismissing cheap iPhone rumours, the Linux-powered sniper rifle, how Microsoft is integrating Skype and Outlook, and bad news for Photoshoppers.

Apple rules out cheap iPhone

Apple has scotched rumours that it's working on a bargain basement version of its iPhone, with marketing boss Phil Schiller stating that cheap phones will "never be the future of Apple products." However, ArsTechnica suggests that the company hasn't always been straight about its plans, and that Schiller may merely be following the company line.

“The wording is key in these instances; Schiller talks about 'cheap smartphones,' which to him means handsets made of low-quality materials for the purpose of being as cheap as possible," Ars speculates. "This is a different realm than a potentially cheaper iPhone—Apple already sells older iPhones for relatively cheap (or free) without feeling like the company is compromising its principles."

Skype rolled up with Outlook

ZDNet reports how Microsoft has released a new version (6.1) of Skype for Windows. The update, which impacts Windows versions from XP onwards, means users can call and chat with contacts directly from Microsoft Outlook, while there are tools for improved search and account management. As ZDNet points out, the announcement comes as Microsoft is trying to wean users off Live Messenger.

Beware the Photoshop penalties

A photographer has been disqualified from the 2012 National Geographic Photo Contest for being too heavy handed with his Photoshop paint brushes. As PetaPixel reports, photographer Harry Fisch had already told his friends he'd won the prestigious competition, but the judges kicked him out for removing a plastic bag from his composition. Had it been cropped or blurred he'd have been in line for the prize, but the rules is the rules.

Google focusing on artificial intelligence

Singularity Hub has an interview with Google's new director of engineering Ray Kurzwell, exploring the future of artificial intelligence in the world of search, among other things. The AI expert said the technology could be built into Google to act as a precognitive assistant, like Siri on steroids.

"It will know at a semantically deep level what you’re interested in, not just the topic... [but] the specific questions and concerns you have.," Kurzwell said. "I envision some years from now that the majority of search queries will be answered without you actually asking. It’ll just know this is something that you’re going to want to see."

Linux and the $17,000 hunting rifle

What do you buy the Linux fan that has everything? A $17,000 penguin sniper's rifle, of course. ArsTechnica reveals how TrackingPoint has developed a Linux-based rifle with an advanced targeting system that takes into account numerous variables to ensure bullets arrive where there were intended to.

The Precision Guided Firearm uses a Linux-powered video scope to produce a display that looks something like the heads-up display you'd see sitting in the cockpit of a fighter jet," Ars reports. "To shoot at something, you first 'mark' it using a button near the trigger. Image recognition routines keep the pip stuck to the marked target in the scope's field of view, and at that point, you squeeze the trigger."

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