Six news items to get you ready for weekend cocktail parties and other current events.1. Game On. Two of the biggest home video game console manufacturers unveiled their latest offerings within a week of one another. Last week, it was Sony Corp. that launched the Playstation 4; an event that triggered the kind of long lines typically seen at Apple stores when the new iPhones come in, or at the local department of motor vehicles office. On Friday, one of Sony’s main rivals, Microsoft Corp., will release its XBox One console. Despite rumblings that the XBox line might be eventually sold off, Microsoft is putting a lot into the XBox One launch, holding worldwide launch parties and anticipating the same long lines as Sony. For those of us who are still trying to master the original Nintendo Entertainment System, the differences between the XBox One and PS4 might not be readily apparent. For gamers, however, the differences couldn’t be more stark. The XBox will include its Kinect feature that allows users to play motion-sensing games, while PS4′s motion sensor, the Playstation Eye, is not included. However, the PS4 will feature a touch screen on its controller, unlike the XBox One. Meanwhile, both consoles will also come loaded with apps, including access to Hulu, Amazon Instant Video, Netflix and others. And, for those of you looking to pick one up during the holiday season, the XBox One will cost you an additional $100 ($499 in the U.S., compared to $399 for the PS4).
2. Movin’ on Up. It was also a big week for Apple Inc.—at least it was for the company’s tax lawyers. On late Tuesday, the company received the go-ahead from the Cupertino City Council to commence building its massive, $5 billion spaceship style headquarters. The San Jose Mercury News reported that the council gave Apple its stamp of approval after the company agreed to reduce the tax break it receives from Cupertino. The city currently rebates half of the taxes generated from Apple’s business-to-business sales to the company—a remnant of the late 1990s when the company was on the verge of bankruptcy. Under the new accord, the city will now rebate 35 percent of those taxes. Meanwhile, a day before the Cupertino vote, Apple got some good news in its bid to build a sapphire production plant in Mesa, Ariz. On Monday, Apple cleared the last barrier to gaining an important property tax break, convincing the Gilbert Public School Board to unanimously approve a plan that would reclassify the proposed plant site as a foreign trade zone. According to Apple Insider, the move could save Apple nearly 70 percent in property taxes. One city taketh, one city giveth.