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Tuesday, November 11, 2008, 03:30 pm PT (06:30 pm ET)

$149 Costco iPhone rumor, $5 iTunes movies, Gmail AV chat

One report is suggesting that Apple will not only expand iPhone sales to Costco but cut pricing at the same time. In a more confirmed price drop, Apple is now touting $5 movie purchases as a regular feature. Also, Google has launched its own video chat feature and has started tracking the spread of the flu through searches.

iPhone seen reaching Costco for $149

In a more controversial claim, analyst group Global Equities Research founder Trip Chowdhry believes that Apple will bring iPhones to Costco for $149 in January.

The step would be aggressive for Apple, which dropped the starting price for an iPhone to $199 with the iPhone 3G and so would be cutting the price just half a year later.

What sources if any Chowdhry uses to support the claim haven't been revealed, casting some doubt on the authority of the report. However, his research note comes on the heels of AppleInsider's news that Orange France will run a promo lowering its price to 99 euros in a promo that will end in January.

Apple opens discount iTunes movie section

Catering to a segment of the population that often hunts for bargain movies, Apple has opened its Under $5 section on the iTunes Store.

As noted by Ars Technica, the page will contain a weekly selection of movies that have all been temporarily discounted to $5 or less. Most of these are currently older titles.

It's not known how permanent the feature may be or whether movies will be regularly rotated into and out of the page as with Apple's existing 99-cent rental promos.

Google launches Gmail video chat

Branching out into live video, Google has launched Gmail Video Chat — its first user-accessible service of the kind.

The feature requires an installed app for Macs and Windows PCs but otherwise just uses the built-in Gmail web interface to start either a full video chat or a sound-only chat using the mail account holder's existing hardware.

Significantly, it uses the same H.264 framework as YouTube and is built with ordinary Internet streaming protocols that aren't forced to run in Google's interface. This opens the door to third-party apps, according to Google.



Google sending flu tracking info to the CDC

Lastly, in an example of Google extending its reach further still, the company today said it's now publicly tracking flu info based on its search engine results.

Those running searches on flu-related keywords are passively contributing to a pool of live information that the search giant believes will help track the spread of the actual influenza virus much more quickly than conventional reports, as many search for virus information and remedies as they themselves become sick.

That information, which has been collected since 2003, also won't be purely academic. Google has supplied that information to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and is being matched against actual testing that has so far proven to correlate well with Google's online results. In the future, the data may be used to predict the spread of the flu on its own.