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Consumer Confidential: A Google-style Facebook, iPhone killer, self-boarding jets

Here's your wind-in-the-willows Wednesday roundup of consumer news from around the Web:

-- Is an alternative to mighty Facebook in the cards? If anyone can do it, it's Google. The Wall Street Journal says Google is busy piecing together the various components it needs to make a viable competitor to the social-networking behemoth, which boasts no fewer than 500 million users. Google is reportedly negotiating with various game developers to take part in a Google-style online gathering space, and no doubt would have plenty of other bells and whistles to offer as well. If Google can also offer an improved privacy policy, I'll be interested.

-- If you're a BlackBerry user, maybe you've been suffering from iPhone envy. Not to worry: A solution may be coming. Speculation is growing that Research In Motion, the company behind the BlackBerry, is about to unveil a touchscreen version intended to be an iPhone killer. An announcement could be made as early as next week at a joint event in New York with AT&T. RIM has two significant obstacles to overcome, though. It has to come up with an interface as slick as the iPhone's, and it has to pile on the apps. As a BlackBerry user, I hope they pull it off.

-- Continental Airlines is trying out a new subway-style boarding system that allows passengers to get on jets without the assistance of airline workers. The idea is that you'll run your boarding pass through an automated gate and a turnstile will open. If the cheaper-to-operate system catches on, you can be sure every other airline worldwide will quickly adopt the practice. I'm thinking this is all well and good, except if people start cutting in line, and except if anyone gets the bright idea that they can get around standby status by jumping the turnstile.

-- David Lazarus

 
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