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The week in Tech: Five must-know things

1:11 PM, Feb 9, 2013   |    comments
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The pace of change in the PC world accelerated this week with big news from Dell, and Microsoft launched its new Surface Pro tablet. Here are a few things you need to know about the week in Tech:

1) Dell buyout

Struggling PC maker Dell announced Tuesday it would sell the company to a group of investors for $24 billion. The investor group includes Dell CEO and founder Michael Dell and tech investment firm Silver Lake. Dell is also teaming up with one of the biggest names in the PC business, Microsoft, which will loan Dell $2 billion.

The Michael Dell-led buyout of his namesake PC brand is a big nod to competitive woes in an industry stricken with Apple envy, USA TODAY's Scott Martin noted in a story analyzing the deal.

PC sales worldwide slipped 6.7% in the fourth quarter compared with a year ago, according to preliminary results from Gartner. Tablet sales worldwide, meanwhile, grew 75% in the same period, according to early results from researcher IDC.

"They can start experimenting in mobile products," says IDC's Del Prete. "If they get a winner, they can drive that through Dell's market."

On Friday, Dell's largest outside investor filed documents in opposition of the deal.

2) Microsoft Surface Pro review

Bigger is better for Microsoft's Surface line of tablets.USA TODAY's Ed Baig took a look at the new Surface Pro and said the tablet is "by no means perfect" but is still "a solid hybrid between tablet and laptop."

First things first - the Surface Pro is pricey, has a limited battery life and has fewer apps than the iPad. But if you're a longtime PC user interested in using Windows software on a tablet, the Surface tablet is a good pick. Baig says the tablet has a "terrific high-definition display." Two different versions of the Touch Cover let users add a standard keyboard to their tablet.

3) Dwarf stars likely home to nearby habitable planets

Your dream of becoming a space tourist could come true. Astronomers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics announced Wednesday that about 6% of nearby red dwarf stars could be hosting Earth-like planets.

In the last three years, NASA's Kepler telescope has spotted at least three Earth-size planets that orbit red dwarf stars at a distance warm enough to support oceans and habitable conditions. These planets are over 3,000 light years away, but astronomers believe similar planets could exist as close as 13 light years away.

4) 'Dead Space 3'

The Dead Space franchise is back with a new installment that adds social features and intense action to the series.

Dead Space 3 follows Isaac Clarke in the 26th century as he fights aliens to save his estranged love, Ellie. Users also have the option to play in two-person mode as Clarke and EarthGov soldier John Carver.

USA TODAY's Marc Saltzman took Dead Space 3 for a spin and said the game is "bigger and better" than previous installments" and "an excellent sci-fi action thriller for one or two players." The game also comes with a few hidden features. In an interview with Saltzman, Dead Space 3 producer John Calhoun said the game recognizes new voice commands and phrases, even swear words (we can't tell you which ones).

5) Smartphone consumers are less willing to experiment

Bad news for phone companies looking to make a comeback. New industry data say many consumers are sticking with well-known brands like Apple's iPhone and Samsung's Android phones instead of trying out new phones from brands like HTC, Motorola and Nokia.

If these companies are making good phones, it seems that the word isn't getting out to potential customers. USA TODAY's Roger Yu reported that many phone companies suffer because they don't aggressively market to the right customers or they don't ship on time.

The bottom line: "Less popular" doesn't mean "bad." So if you're in the market for a wallet-friendly smartphone, don't be afraid to consider phones that aren't the ever-present iPhone.

USA Today

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