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Briefly: EU on iTunes, 10.4.9 phone sync, Intel's Bearlake, Verizon card for MBP

The European Commission has in short order raised —and then quashed —hints of legal action on a larger scope against iTunes' closed system. At the same time, Apple's latest Mac OS X update has greatly expanded its phone support, details have surfaced of Intel's new mainstream desktop platform, and Verizon gave MacBook Pros faster Internet access.

EU consumer head triggers worry over iTunes DRM

The European Union's Commissioner for Consumer Protection, Meglena Kuneva, laid to rest this week worries that the continent-wide body would take legal action against Apple over the inoperability of its iTunes Store purchases with non-iPod hardware.

The consumer head caused a brief scare by taking an insistent tone during an interview with Germany's Focus magazine published this week, demanding that "something should change" with Apple's tactics. Some interpreted the statement as a sign that the EU would force a legal change in the near future.

However, Kuneva quickly defused the potentially explosive situation by arguing that she only wanted to provoke thoughts about the issue, also denying any parallels between Apple's position and Microsoft's troubles with the European Commission.

"I would like, really, to start this debate. What is best to develop this market and to have more consumers enjoying this really very important, very modern way of downloading and enjoying the music," she said. "Somebody drew the comparison with Microsoft. No, this is not the case because the share of the market of Apple is really not a big one so there is not any reason to talk about infringement."

Apple is still facing legal challenges from individual European nations over its reluctance to open its standards.

Mac OS X 10.4.9 update boosts sync support

Apple today revealed that it had significantly expanded its phone support as part of Tuesday's 10.4.9 update for Mac OS X.

Although scarcely publicized by the company, the update in some cases adds entire model ranges to the company's handset compatibility, adding Nokia's N-series smartphones to the list for the first time as well as Motorola's newer KRZR K1 and a trio of Sony-Ericsson's K-series cameraphones.

Surprisingly, Apple has also begun making its sync support more explicit: most of the new models are accompanied by the sync methods they support. Most of the freshly added devices have the choice of synchronizing their contacts through Bluetooth and USB.

Intel's Bearlake appears at CeBIT

Several of Intel's partners were out in force at the CeBIT consumer electronics expo in Hannover, Germany today, demonstrating the chipmaker's new Bearlake platform.

The technology represents a major spike in performance for the company's mainstream Core 2 Duo and Core 2 Quad desktop chips, ramping up the system bus speed from 1.06 to 1.33GHz and adding support for faster DDR3 memory.

Bearlake should be available in April or May. However, Apple does not currently use Bearlake's current-day equivalent (nicknamed Conroe) in any of its current systems, opting instead for the Xeon 5100 (Woodcrest) in the Mac Pro and mobile Core 2 Duo (Merom) chips for almost all of its existing lineup.

Verizon launches EVDO Rev. A card for MacBook Pros

Validating Apple's WWAN update issued last month, Verizon on Thursday released its V740 ExpressCard for laptops that support the more recent card standard.

Verizon EVDO card

The card is the first that Verizon subscribers with MacBook Pros can use which gives them access to the provider's new EVDO Revision A mobile broadband network. It promises 3G wireless speeds closer to landline access, peaking at 800Kbps downstream and 400Kbps upstream in actual use.

Owners of Apple's pro laptop can install and run the card without extra software when the WWAN update is installed.