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Rumors that Microsoft will launch its own smartphones have gained steam again, with one analyst predicting that the device may be introduced at the GSMA Mobile World Congress in two weeks. The Microsoft-branded phone may include Nvidia’s Tegra processor and a telecommunications baseband chip from Qualcomm, wrote Doug Freedman of Broadpoint AmTech in a report Thursday.

Rumors surfaced last year that Microsoft would launch a smartphone at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, but none materialized. Freedman now believes it will happen at MWC, which takes place Feb. 16-19 in Barcelona.

RIM and several of its top executives have settled with Canada’s Ontario Securities Commission over charges that the company improperly backdated stock options. Four executives, including RIM’s co-CEOs and chief operating officer, will pay fines totalling about US$75 million, the company said. That includes compensation to RIM for benefits from incorrectly priced options for all employees who got them, as well as the costs of investigations by both RIM and the OSC.  Between 1996 and 2006, RIM executives were involved in the granting of stock options in which dates were changed to get a lower exercise price, which could create a greater windfall for employees as the stock rose.

Intel confirmed on Thursday that it’s shipping the Atom N280 processor to PC makers, which should bring more performance and improved graphics capabilities to netbooks. The new single-core Atom processor is paired with a chipset that allows users to watch high-definition content on netbooks while drawing less power. The new GN40 chipset includes a hardware-based high-definition video decoder that allows users to watch 720p HD video content.  

Intel originally perceived Atom chips for netbooks to run basic applications like Web surfing and productivity applications. The capability to decode HD video should allow netbooks to better handle streaming video content.

Microsoft plans to patch critical flaws in its Internet Explorer and Microsoft Exchange Server software next week. In total, the company will issue four security updates, including two critical fixes as well as patches for Microsoft SQL Server and its Microsoft Office Visio, the company said in a note published on its Web site Thursday. Although hackers could theoretically exploit bugs in all of these products to run unauthorized software, Microsoft rates the SQL Server and Office flaws as less severe.

…And those are the top stories from the IDG Global IT News Update, brought to you by the IDG News Service. I’m Sumner Lemon in Singapore. Join us again later for more news from the world of technology.


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