TC News: Yahoo & Google Changing Email, Wal-Mart Sells Out of $200 PC, More Ways to Pay Online

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TechConsumer News is a feature we started out of a hobby of tracking the latest happenings within the consumer related technology sphere. The goal is to provide a concise, compiled overview of the most intriguing stories from the last few days. Feel free to give us feedback or send us tips. If you like what you find, you can subscribe via email or RSS.

Here’s the latest in TechConsumer news:

Brad Garlinghouse, who runs the communication and community products for Yahoo, spilled the beans on something Yahoo is working on that he calls “Inbox 2.0.” The idea is to combine aspects of social networking with email. For example, messages are displayed more prominently from people who are more important to you. “The inbox you have today is based on what people send you, not what you want to see,” Garlinghouse said. “We can say, here are the messages from the people you care about most.” Yahoo Mail will soon have other info about your friends as well that can be linked to a profile page. Google wasn’t as forthright with its plans but eluded that it was working on something similar.

Wal-Mart recently put on a sale the first mass-market $200 desktop PC (pictured above). The spec of the system is low, of course, 1.5 GHz VIA C7 CPU embedded onto a Mini-ITX motherboard, 512MB of RAM, and an 80GB hard drive. But it does everything you can do with a regular computer: surf the web, send and receive email, use a word processor and spreadsheet program, chat with friends, edit photos and pictures, even burn DVDs, etc. But it can’t really play games and uses Linux instead of Windows. Regardless, the first 10,000 units available were sold out in two weeks.

Consumers who worry about identify theft and fraud from online purchases can take comfort in the fact that retailers are using more alternative payment systems. Online retailers on average accepted 2.6 different payment options this year, up from 2.1 in 2005. Among those payments that don’t use credit cards directly:

•Bill Me Later sends customers a monthly bill and lets them pay by check or money order.

•Google Checkout and PayPal Express Checkout let customers sign up and provide financial details only to them rather than giving personal information to retailers.

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