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Brier Dudley's Blog

Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

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May 31, 2006 11:41 AM

Microsoft Office reorganized

Posted by Brier Dudley

Microsoft Office is getting more than just a new interface. The group's leadership was reorganized today, filling the gap created by former Office boss Steven Sinofsky's March move to lead Windows development.

Business division chief Jeff Raikes announced the changes this morning. Basically, Office is being divided into two groups, a productivity application group headed by Antoine Leblond, and an Office Business Platform group headed by Kurt DelBene that will own SharePoint, Groove and Project.

Comments | Category: Microsoft |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

May 31, 2006 11:34 AM

Microsoft's naming IP

Posted by Brier Dudley

We knew Microsoft was trying to license more of its intellectual property, but we didn't know that included product names.

On Tuesday, AMD announced the AMD Live! branding for its entertainment chipsets, and today Norton said its online consumer security service, code-named Genesis, will be sold as Norton 360.

Comments | Category: Microsoft |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

May 31, 2006 11:19 AM

Is Michael Dell still welcome in Medina?

Posted by Brier Dudley

If the PC baron is invited back to Bill Gates' CEO Summit, he may get seated in the back, near the bathrooms.

First Dell agreed to preload Google software, and today the company said it will load Skype on its unusual new XPS media centers.

Microsoft has played nice with Skype owner eBay in the past, but there's an interesting rivalry developing between Skype and Microsoft's Messenger communication client.

Comments | Category: Dell , Microsoft |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

May 31, 2006 10:58 AM

Google's glorious growth

Posted by Brier Dudley

Steve Ballmer's Wall Street roadshow hasn't yet dimmed Merrill Lynch's enthusiasm for Google.

The firm's Internet analyst, Justin Post, today reiterated his $490 price target for Google stock and said the stock has "30% potential upside to our price objective as the company remains the dominant leader in search."

Expect more financial news from Google. As a sort of counterpoint to Ballmer's spiel, Google is having a conference call with investors today. Around 11 a.m. today the stock was up $2.93 to $374.88.

Comments | Category: Google , Microsoft |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

May 30, 2006 1:20 PM

Monday's Vista column

Posted by Brier Dudley

There was some interesting feedback on Monday's column, about my experience using Vista at Microsoft's hardware conference.

One person said I should be looking at Macs instead, another said I'm too beholden to Microsoft. A manager from Microsoft said he'd loan me a PC with the latest version of Vista installed, so I could get a feel for how it's improving.

I did swing by Apple Computer's store in University Village on Monday. It's unlikely I'll be using an iMac for my home media server, either -- the white plastic look didn't pass muster with the person in charge of my home decor. So is it going to make a black desktop as well?

Comments | Category: Microsoft |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

May 30, 2006 1:09 PM

When it rains, it pours consumer security services

Posted by Brier Dudley

First Microsoft announced OneCare, then Symantec began talking up Genesis. Now McAfee's preparing to launch Falcon.

So far it's a little FUD. OneCare has been in beta, Genesis is supposed to launch in September and McAfee's announcement today was short on details -- like dates and prices. The release said it "will soon release the industry's first fully integrated consumer security service platform" and later said the Falcon's coming this summer.

Comments | Category: Microsoft , Security & privacy |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

May 30, 2006 12:24 PM

Watchdogs or lapdogs?

Posted by Brier Dudley

Business reporters sometimes can't grasp the enormous complexity of the stories they're covering, and they're prone to cheerleading, according to Los Angeles Times media critic Tim Rutten.

His column was about the fizzy press that Enron received before its crash, but his concerns about reporters providing depth and maintaining distance from companies they cover apply to technology journalism as well. Especially now that it's starting to feel bubble-like around here.

Comments | Category: Digital media |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

May 26, 2006 11:08 AM

First Word, now Symantec hit by security flaws

Posted by Brier Dudley

What should you do about the Word and Symantec security flaws announced this week? Shut down your PC and take a nice, long holiday weekend.

If that's not an option, here's more info.

Researchers at eEye Digital Security found the flaw in Symantec's antivirus products and said it's "high severity." But Symantec said it doesn't affect consumers using its Norton-brand antivirus products. The flaw affects Symantec Antivirus Corporate Edition 10.x. More details are listed here.

Earlier this week, Microsoft advised customers to run Word in Safe Mode until it fixes a vulnerability in Office XP and Office 2003. It says the patch will be ready by June 13, but in the meantime here are the precautions listed in its advisory posting:

-- Do not open Word files that are embedded in other applications, such as Excel, PowerPoint and others.

-- Home users: Even after applying the workarounds do not open Word files directly from ANY mail clients for example, Outlook or Hotmail by double-clicking them. Save your word document to a disk or onto your desktop and use the "Word Safe Mode" Shortcut.

-- Enterprise users: Even after applying the workarounds do not open Word files directly from mail clients other than Outlook, for example, Hotmail by double-clicking them.

-- Do not open .doc from a Web site via Internet Explorer or any other browser.

-- If you do not see "Safe Mode" in Word title bar you are not running Word in Safe Mode. Do not attempt to open any Word files as you may be vulnerable to the malicious .doc files.

-- You can use Word Viewer 2003 to open any files without being affected by this vulnerability.

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May 26, 2006 9:40 AM

Microsoft to buy eBay?

Posted by Brier Dudley

Yahoo!'s alliance with eBay and Google's deal with Dell would pale compared to a mammoth deal that Microsoft may be attempting - an outright acquisition of eBay, according to a New York Post report today.

If the report is true, Microsoft's obsession with Google is reaching new heights. Microsoft could afford it - eBay was worth $48 billion this morning -- but that would eat up a lot of Microsoft's flexibility to do deals that actually relate to its core business.

The Post said antitrust concerns are cooling the talks, which is sort of odd. I wonder if the executives are more worried about telecom regulators getting involved, given eBay's ownership of Skype and Microsoft's moves toward Internet telephony.

It's following the same script as the AOL-Google-Microsoft-Yahoo! dance last fall - a fading Internet star is negotiating for the best deal from the big-spending search and advertising companies.

Comments | Category: Microsoft , Web |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

May 25, 2006 2:19 PM

Google and Dell: What's the big deal?

Posted by Brier Dudley

As expected, Dell is going to preload some Google software on new PCs. It's kind of interesting, but it's not as dramatic as it sounds.

Dell and other PC makers have been hawking their desktop real estate for years, offering to preload the applications of practically anyone willing to pay for the space. Most are Microsoft competitors - AOL, RealNetworks and Corel -- and their presence in the bundle hasn't guaranteed victory.

Henry Blodget dissected the deal from an investor's perspective, concluding "this still isn't good news."

If you can't wait for that new Dell, the same Google software is available free here.

Frankly. new PCs are starting to feel like a cheesy strip mall, with all the software and promotions loaded onto the desktop and stuffed in the box. Here's a list of software -- in addition to Windows -- that was on a recently purchased Dell Dimension 5150:

Adobe Acrobat 6.0 Reader
Dell Direct Download
Sonic Cineplayer
McAfee Security Center, 90 Day
Music Match 10.1 Software
EarthLink ISP Software
QuickBooks Simple Start Special Edition
Image Restore Software
Support Software
Operating System CD
AOL ISP Software
AOL 8.0 ISP Software
Photo Album 6.0 Starter
No Productivity Suite - Corel WordPerfect word processor only
AOL 9.0 ISP Software
Windows Media Player
AOL 9.0 ISP Software

To avoid getting lost in the pile, perhaps Google should avoid the middleman and start paying consumers directly to load the software on their PCs.

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May 25, 2006 10:20 AM

From WSA's Investment Forum

Posted by Brier Dudley

Is Blu-ray the DVD's last hurrah? One of Sony's assumptions about Blu-ray discs: They could be the last packaged media in the increasingly networked world, according to Mike Fidler, the former Sony Blu-ray executive who now runs Digeo in Kirkland.

Consumers are funding the development of digital media nowadays, but that will change as the business world increasingly uses technology such as digital video, according to Enrique Godreau III, managing director of Voyager Capital. "I think we're kind of going through a transition [from] letting the consumer pay for the development of these technologies," he said.

Networked gaming is inspiring developers, according to Jeff Pobst, a former Xbox developer relations manager now running Hidden Path Entertainment in Bellevue. "It gets really interesting and exciting when you start designing the content knowing how it's going to be distributed and making that distribution part of the content,'' he said.

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May 24, 2006 3:36 PM

Simonyi taps former Verisign and Oracle exec

Posted by Brier Dudley

Ex-Microsoft guru Charles Simonyi's Bellevue startup, Intentional Software, hired Francois Steiger to run its international group and Budapest research operations.

Steiger was previously Verisign's senior VP and general manager for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. He'll work out of Intentional's new international HQ in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Back in 1991, while at Oracle, Steiger received a "most valuable player" award from Larry Ellison.

Is Intentional ready for funding? Steiger also has experience working as a venture capitalist in London, and he helped take BroadVision public in 1996.

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May 24, 2006 3:28 PM

Vista's in the bag

Posted by Brier Dudley

You'd never guess that Microsoft had invested billions in Windows Vista, judging from the discs handed out in a plain plastic bag at WinHEC today. Here's the beta, sitting on its original packaging.

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May 24, 2006 1:48 PM

ATI blasts Microsoft at WinHEC

Posted by Brier Dudley

The competition among hardware and software vendors was fierce at WinHEC today, but ATI software engineer James Martin won the $6,500 Alienware game PC given away in the conference's "Half-Life 2" contest.

A big screen displayed the final shootout that took place at the edge of the convention center's Pike Street pedestrian overpass. Speakers blasted out the gunfire sounds and a guitarist in Gibson's nearby booth belted out Van Halen tunes as Martin coasted to victory with a lethal grenade-gravity gun combo move.

Second place in the AMD-sponsored event went to Microsoft engineer Dan Conti and third went to journalist Tom Warren of They went home with AMD 64-bit dual core processors.

Martin, 38, works on ATI drivers in Markham, Ont., and spends a lot of time gaming online, using a custom PC he built himself. What about the Alienware machine?

"I'm not sure what I'll do with it,' he said. "My wife needs an upgrade. ..."

Comments | Category: Games & entertainment |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

May 24, 2006 9:43 AM

Jobster growing

Posted by Brier Dudley

Jobster founder Jason Goldberg has been doing some shopping.

Today he announced the acquisition of, a small Anchorage startup that will merge into Jobster's Pioneer Square headquarters.

"After watching these guys make rapid progress on their ajaxy tagged-based online recruiting service, we met gojobby's founders brian and tony and well, we just clicked,'' Goldberg said on his blog.

I had dinner last night with Goldberg and his posse, who mentioned that another acquisition is also close to being announced, further taking advantage of the $30 million that Jobster has raised since it was founded in 2004.

After a glass or two of Domaine Drouhin Laurene, he also let slip that he bought himself a townhouse in Fremont not far from Google's new marketing office.

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May 24, 2006 9:43 AM

Vista slip: Could be February, Ballmer says

Posted by Brier Dudley

As if Microsoft weren't lowering expectations enough, Chief Executive Steve Ballmer told reporters in Tokyo that Vista may ship in late January or even February depending on feedback from computer companies, according to a Computerworld report.

"The other thing, frankly, which we are discussing with NEC and other hardware partners, is when would they really like it -- early January, late January, February -- so it depends on when the next rollover, the next turn of the machine cycle will be, and that would be the best time to ship it based on beta feedback," he said.

So much for a big launch at the Consumer Electronics Show on Jan. 8.

There are other signals that the broad January release may be up in the air. Beta discs weren't done in time for the opening day of WinHEC yesterday, where none of the executives promised any specific delivery dates. Will Poole said the company is still aiming for January but that depends on beta-testing feedback.

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May 23, 2006 3:03 PM

Poole's BitLocker pitch

Posted by Brier Dudley

Senior VP Will Poole

Microsoft Senior Vice President Will Poole was particularly enthusiastic about the BitLocker file encryption feature coming on high-end versions of Vista.

He spent a recent Saturday sorting out the mess after his financial institution lost a laptop containing his personal information. It was a hassle, but it gave Poole the perfect anecdote for his keynote.

"I sure wish that company had available to it Windows Vista and BitLocker drive encryption,'' he said during his speech.

He didn't mention that the financial company would have had the feature if Microsoft had finished Vista on time.

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May 23, 2006 2:43 PM

WinHECkling: Where's Jim?

Posted by Brier Dudley

Was somebody missing from the opening lineup at Microsoft's Windows Hardware Engineering Conference today in Seattle? Windows boss Jim Allchin, for instance?

Elsewhere at the show:

The most jarring sight was a FlexGo PC powered by a car battery sitting on the floor in Intel's booth. Will the next must-have PC accessory be a pair of jumper cables?

Speaking of FlexGo, I wonder if Microsofties found inspiration for the name on their FlexPass bus passes issued by King County Metro.

Cool demos included a Wi-Fi remote control for the Media Center PC that can display photos or a list of music files and serve as a standalone media player.

Also nifty were Skype-killer phones that let you place calls via Microsoft's Messenger service. Coming to market shortly are Messenger phones from Motorola and Uniden.

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May 22, 2006 4:34 PM

Tech on tap in Seattle ...

Posted by Brier Dudley

Bill Gates is likely to deliver the biggest local tech news at Microsoft's hardware conference, where he's the keynote speaker Tuesday. He's expected to finally announce the broad test versions of Windows Vista and Office 2007.

Simultaneously, the Association for Computing Machinery's Special Interest Group on Algorithms and Computation Theory is hosting a symposium on the theory of computing at the Red Lion hotel in Seattle today and Tuesday.

Looking for cash? WSA's 13th annual investment forum is Thursday in Seattle.

Thursday night, the Seattle Alliance of Technology and Women are co-hosting a networking and tools showcase at the Mercer Island Community Center from 6-8:30 p.m. Software tools and applications will be presented by companies including Microsoft's Groove unit, Telelogic/Focalpoint, Global Market Insights, Orasi Software, Feature Plan/Ryma Tech and eProject. Co-sponsoring the event is the Seattle Product Management Consortium.

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May 22, 2006 3:55 PM

Swap AMZN, GOOG for S&P index fund?

Posted by Brier Dudley

From today's edition of Merrill Lynch analyst Justin Post's bi-weekly report on Net stocks:

"Internet stocks we cover were down 7.7% over the two-week period ending 5/19, vs.the S&P 500 which was down 4.4%. Large cap Internet stocks -- AMZN, EBAY, GOOG and YHOO are down 26.2% YTD collectively, vs. the S&P 500 which is down 0.1%."

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May 22, 2006 3:27 PM

Big Blue karma available for $55 million

Posted by Brier Dudley

Tech entrepreneurs looking for good karma and a New York pied a terre may be interested in the former home of IBM founder Thomas Watson Jr. is calling the five-story, $55 million pad on the Upper East Side the 10th most expensive home for sale in the U.S.

The listing for 4 E. 75th St. was apparently taken down from the agent's Web site, but it's still visible in a Google cache.

Update: An astute reader pointed out that Thomas Watson Sr. founded IBM. I should have double checked the Forbes info. Here's a quick bio of Junior, who is credited with building the company into a computer giant.

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May 22, 2006 9:39 AM

Today's column

Posted by Brier Dudley

I thought I would be looking ahead with today's column on Microsoft's PC financing scheme.

Microsoft had been dropping hints about the scheme for some time, and I nailed it down last Monday after hearing Craig Mundie and Michael Dell provide more details at the Future in Review conference I attended in San Diego. I badgered Mundie, probably a bit too much, but he wouldn't give me any clues about when the program would be announced.

I finished the column Thursday and took Friday off, only to get a call Friday afternoon from my editor -- Microsoft had sent out a press release saying it would announce the financing scheme on Monday.

Rather than run a different column today, we decided to stick with the original because there are some interesting issues raised by the new technology.

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May 18, 2006 1:55 PM

Symantec suing Microsoft; A war's first volley?

Posted by Brier Dudley

Symantec today filed a lawsuit in Seattle alleging that Microsoft misappropriated trade secrets and broke a contract with Veritas, which has since merged with Symantec.

Basically the complaint alleges Microsoft lifted technology from Veritas Volume Manager and used it to develop competing products. It also alleges that Microsoft concealed this by refusing to let Symantec view its source code.

Symantec and Microsoft have long been partners, but tension has grown between the companies as Microsoft began developing its own line of security products and services. On Monday I mentioned here that Symantec CEO John Thompson was hinting that he'd take legal action against Microsoft if necessary.

Microsoft's response: It's B.S.

"We worked hard to try to resolve these issues with Symantec, but were not able to reach an agreement,'' the company said in an emailed statement. "We believe the facts will show that Microsoft's actions were proper and are fully consistent with the contract between Veritas and Microsoft.

"These claims are unfounded because Microsoft actually purchased intellectual property rights for all relevant technologies from Veritas in 2004."

Ben Romano posted a story on the flap here.

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May 18, 2006 1:36 PM

A word from Ed

Posted by Brier Dudley

Almost every time I write about technology at universities outside of Seattle, I get an eloquent note from University of Washington professor Ed Lazowska telling me that I should spend more time writing about the UW.

Since this blog is an extension of a family newspaper, I won't reprint the note I received after Wednesday's story about my visit to Larry Smarr's facility at the University of California at San Diego.

Ed's latest suggestion: That I mention a set of UW videos in which students, faculty and alumni talk about why they entered the field of computer science.

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May 18, 2006 1:14 PM

For true vinyl freaks

Posted by Brier Dudley

It costs $15,000, for the record.

It probably won't appeal to people who buy old albums for their retro look or their musty scent of authenticity. But if you're crazy for the sound of vinyl records, a Japanese electronics company has just started selling a laser turntable in the U.S. that won't wear them out.

ELP sells the device for $15,000 -- about the cost of the entire inventory at the average used record store in Fremont. ELP says there's a big market, with 20 billion to 30 billion vinyl records still floating around, and it sold 1,000 of the machines in Japan last year.

If this device had been around 50 years, the CD may never have come into existence. Jim Russell, a Bellevue audiophile who developed key optical recording technologies, made his discoveries after being frustrated by the way turntable needles wore down his records.

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May 18, 2006 12:48 PM

Is that PC really Vista ready?

Posted by Brier Dudley

Now that PC makers have sold off most of their old Celeron PCs, Microsoft released detailed specs on what you'll need to run Vista.

Be warned that the term "Vista capable" means only that a PC can run a bare-bones version of the software, a version without snazzy new graphics features.

If you're shopping for a PC and planning to upgrade to Vista, look for one marked "Vista Premium Ready." Those systems should be powerful enough to run the complete system.

For a PC to be "Vista Premium Ready," it needs at least a 1 GHz processor, 1 GB of RAM and a 128 MB video card that's Vista compliant. The company launched a "get ready" Web site with more specifics, but you have to click footnotes for details. You can also get the specs in this press release.

One PC that's not powerful enough to run complete versions of Vista: the Samsung Ultra-Mobile PC that went on sale this month.

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May 17, 2006 2:09 PM

Vista-ready laptops, powered by AMD

Posted by Brier Dudley

AMD may have bragging rights at Microsoft's Windows Hardware Engineering Conference next week in Seattle with its Vista laptop chip: the first dual-core 64-bit processors for thin and light notebook PCs.

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May 17, 2006 12:11 PM

King Premji

Posted by Brier Dudley

I wouldn't call it journalism, but Dave Winer posted a fun photo of Wipro Chairman Azim Premji speaking at FiRe.

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May 17, 2006 11:46 AM

Linux rumblings: Oracle and IBM vs Red Hat

Posted by Brier Dudley

Oracle and IBM may gang up against Red Hat by jointly supporting their own enterprise version of Linux, according to a Goldman Sachs report issued today.

Wall Street has speculated for weeks that Oracle will offer its own operating system, perhaps based on Red Hat's open source system. Goldman followed up by interviewing Eben Moglen, general counsel to the Free Software Foundation.

The conclusions: Oracle can "legally replicate" Red Hat Enterprise Linux, a move that could eventually give Oracle 10 percent of the Linux market.

"We believe Oracle may also seek IBM's support, possibly for a joint Linux distribution. To date, however, IBM has not been as combative as Oracle in openly discussing plans to compete with Red Hat,'' it said.

Red Hat has benefited from the big enterprise companies' contributions to Linux, but that may change.

"For Oracle, IBM, and HP, supporting the Linux movement meant developing an independent operating system platform that could offer them cheaper total cost of ownership stack to compete against Microsoft and Sun,'' the report said. "However, in supporting Red Hat and Novell in the Linux market, none of these open source community partners ever intended for one company, Red Hat, to obtain a dominate market position in Linux and move up the infrastructure stack to compete against them in the way Microsoft does. Ironically, it seems that Red Hat's partners have helped to create another company like Microsoft that can leverage its dominant operating system position and deliver great value up the infrastructure stack (operating system + application server + database + middleware + applications) and compete more broadly against these vendors."

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May 17, 2006 11:25 AM A developers' etalier?

Posted by Brier Dudley

That's the impression left by CTO Werner Vogel in an interview published in ACM Queue's May edition that was flagged by Slashdot today.

"Developers are like artists; they produce their best work if they have the freedom to do so, but they need good tools,'' Vogel said, explaining the creative environment the company is trying to offer engineers.

The interviewer was Microsoft researcher and computing demigod Jim Gray, who apparently fared better with Vogel than Microsoft blogger Robert Scoble.

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May 16, 2006 1:16 PM

Rosen's outlook

Posted by Brier Dudley

Look for a resurgence of small business ventures that shoot for $5 million to $10 million sales, and fewer venture capital-backed startups aiming for bigger scale and quicker liquidity, Seattle investor Dan Rosen said at FiRe today.

Until three weeks ago Rosen was general partner at Frazier Technology Ventures. Before that he was a manager at Microsoft and AT&T.

Now an independent angel investor, he's focusing on wireless projects, including several working on provisioning, customer support "and things that enable new categories of applications, not necessary the applications themselves," he said.

He's also interested in projects "that make the so-called Web 2.0 more efficient."

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May 16, 2006 12:16 PM

Rocket men

Posted by Brier Dudley

SAN DIEGO -- Talk of saving energy ended abruptly when Elon Musk and Chris Faranetta came on stage at FiRe to discuss their businesses -- sending people and materials into space on privately funded rocketships.

Musk, who made a fortune as a founder of PayPal, now runs a company called Space Exploration Technologies, which is competing with Boeing and Lockheed for government launch contracts. Today he showed video shot from inside his first launch in March, which ended shortly after takeoff when the motor shut off and the unmanned ship crashed into a coral reef off the remote Pacific island where it was launched.

The payload, a U.S. military satellite, survived. Musk said it shot out like a cannonball, flew 500 feet and went through the roof of a machine shop on the island. It ended up 50 feet from its shipping container "more or less intact."

"I think it was trying to get home one way or another,'' he said. "At least we can say we never lost a satellite.''

Musk is preparing to launch another satellite in September or October, and preparing a much larger rocket for launch in 2007 or 2008. He has bigger ambitions than delivering hardware.

"By 2020 I'd like to see us take somebody to another planet,'' he said.

Musk is one of several tech tycoons investing in space travel. Others include Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and founder Jeff Bezos. They're also capitalizing on new opportunities for companies to provide space services that are getting less funding in the U.S.

"The only way we're going to become a multiplanet species is through private enterprise,'' Musk said, in complete seriousness.

Space Adventures is a travel company that's already flying people to the International Space Station. Two customers have made the trip, and former Microsoft executive Charles Simonyi is signed up for an upcoming flight.

The company is now preparing to send wealthy tourists on a lengthier trip that includes 16 days at the space station and a side trip to within 60 miles of the moon, using a spaceship developed for a Russian lunar mission. There are two seats available at $100 million apiece.

Next, the company hopes to actually land tourists on the moon.

"We believe we can go back to the moon for under $2 billion,'' Faranetta said.

Faranetta said there's a market for that sort of adventure.

"We have at least a dozen people in line for that, we get more credible inquiries every day," he said. "We've identified about 1,500 people worldwide who are financially qualified to do a lunar mission. We have some solid leads there."

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May 16, 2006 10:00 AM

Tiny tech

Posted by Brier Dudley

SAN DIEGO -- It took some refocusing, but FiRe turned its attention today from supercomputers and massive networks to nanotechnology ventures developing products at the molecular level.

Larry Bock, founder and chairman of Nanosys in Palo Alto, Calif., provided some gee-whiz demos. He dropped water onto a plastic sheet covered with tiny nanofibers each one 150th the width of a human hair. The drops literally bounced around on the surface, repelled by the fibers. An obvious application is coating windshields so they don't need wipers, but Bock has other ideas.

"Imagine coating a heart valve or a stent with this,'' he said.

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May 16, 2006 9:08 AM

Fueling the FiRe

Posted by Brier Dudley

SAN DIEGO -- Tech entrepreneurs and venture capitalists are intrigued by energy ventures like biofuel production, but that's just part of the picture. At FiRe today, Goldman Sachs Vice Chairman Robert Hormats, a former assistant secretary of state, pointed out some of the geopolitical issues to keep in mind.

Rather than seeing environmental protections as a handicap, Hormats suggested the U.S. could capitalize on its leadership in this area in its dealings with developing countries like India and China that are hungry for energy but increasingly concerned about environmental damage.

"It's a great opportunity for us if we take the lead, which pitifully we have not done," he said.

Hormats said President Bush missed a huge opportunity to develop an energy partnership with China when he met with China President Hu Jintao recently in Washington, D.C. The discussion could have started with the U.S. offering its technology for cleaner coal usage, helping China reduce emissions and its dependence on oil.

"Now in Seattle it might have worked, but it was not done in Seattle and it didn't work,'' Hormats said.

Hormats compared the current opportunities in energy to the technology market opportunities in the 1990s. One likely area of growth is nuclear power, which is relatively clean to produce and safer to generate nowadays.

"A lot of bright people who developed their expertise in one area are trying to transfer that to energy,'' he said.

In the meantime, new technologies are driving huge advances in-oil drilling technologies. With current seismic modeling, oil companies can use a football field-size room to drill angled wells covering an area of 20 to 30 miles, said Randy Foutch, former chief executive of Latigo Petroleum.

"We can bridge the gap between where we are today and where we need to be with alternative fuels," he said. "It's going to take some resolve and political effort but we can get there.''

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May 16, 2006 6:14 AM

Subcontinental schmoozing

Posted by Brier Dudley

SAN DIEGO -- One of Monday's sessions at FiRe was a roundtable discussion of future technologies with chief technology officers from Microsoft, AMD, Hewlett-Packard, EMC, Intuit, Accenture and Getty Images.

Sitting alone in the audience was Azim Premji, chairman of Wipro, one of the major Indian technology companies. He's a business celebrity in the subcontinent, the equivalent of Jack Welch or Bill Gates, but in San Diego he was just one of the nerds. Sort of.

Premji stuck around after the session to shake hands and chat with Microsoft Chief Technical Officer Craig Mundie, who beelined straight to the man from Bangalore as the crowd broke up.

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May 16, 2006 5:53 AM

How do you make a geek drool?

Posted by Brier Dudley

SAN DIEGO -- Show him or her the stuff being developed at the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology, a collaborative research venture of the state's universities at San Diego and Irvine.

A tour given as part of the FiRe conference Monday evening began in what center director and supercomputing luminary Larry Smarr described as the world's most advanced digital theater. Each seat has a gigabit ethernet connection and power jacks, and the big screen displays images from the first "super high definition" projector installed in the U.S. Sony provided the projector, which it's trying to sell to the movie industry.

Super high-def video is four times the resolution of standard high-def. Its cameras put out 6 gigabitss of content per second, compared with 1.5 gigabits per second with regular high-def. A demonstration video, scanned from a 65 millimeter Imax film on India, was so crisp, vibrant and deep it seemed like 3-D.

When combined with superfast Internet connections like the ones at the theater (the building has 100 gigbits of bandwidth, and can be configured to have as much as every cable-modem equipped home in the U.S.), it enables applications such as superrealistic videoconferencing that Smarr calls "telepresence."

Other gee-whiz demonstrations included a 24-channel digital surround sound system and a prototype of a circa 2015 PC with a 100 million pixel display. The PC was actually a stack of 55 flat panel displays powered by a cluster of 28 Linux PCs, plus a 29th PC that served as a sort of controller.

On the big screen, Smarr showed off the system's power by casually generating a tornadic substructure. In other words, he produced a visual model of the forces and weather that create a tornado.

He also showed plain old high-definition video of hydrothermal vents filmed 2.5 miles below the ocean's surface. "With this any school child can see in live time this kind of thing,'' he said.

Afterward I suggested that the 4x high-def system would be perfect for Seattle's Cinerama, but the theater's owner noted that Smarr didn't provide the system's price.

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May 16, 2006 5:40 AM

OQO boss Jory Bell on Microsoft's Origami device

Posted by Brier Dudley

SAN DIEGO -- I was expecting Jory Bell, a reknown PC designer and co-founder of micro PC maker OQO, to rip on Microsoft's Origami Ultra-Mobile PC project but he seemed more curious than critical.

Bell wondered why Microsoft released the device so early -- the first model went on sale this month -- and whether the first iteration is intended to woo PC makers more than consumers. We also chatted about whether Microsoft was trying to get ahead of competition such as the Nokia Internet tablet; perhaps the Redmondians caught wind of Google's interest in working with Nokia on the second generation tablet.

One challenge for Microsoft and its UMPC partners is that Intel is still working on a smaller, more power-efficient processor for such devices. Bell's also interested in that processor and recently visited Intel's facility in Haifa, Israel, to learn more about it.

Before launching OQO in 2000, Bell worked on Apple Computer's G3 line and co-developed the Titanium Powerbook, and before that he worked on IBM's ThinkPad.

OQO makes handheld PCs that run full versions of Windows, but are only slightly bigger than a cigarette package. A similar device called the FlipStart was developed but never sold by Paul Allen, who was standing near Bell as we talked in the lobby of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology.

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May 15, 2006 4:02 PM

Dell's mea culpa

Posted by Brier Dudley

SAN DIEGO -- A week after Dell warned that it will miss its earnings forecast, shocking Wall Street, Chairman Michael Dell offered some insight into the situation.

"We kind of underestimated what was going to happen competitively,'' Dell said at FiRe during an interview with Mark Anderson.

When the company announced on May 8 that it wouild miss its forecast, netting 33 cents per share in the first quarter instead of the forecasted 36 to 38 cents, it attributed the miss to "pricing decisions." Apparently that meant the company didn't expect other PC companies to be able to lower prices and take sales from Dell.

"We used to be about three times more profitable than our competitors," Dell said. "Now we're about two and a half times more profitable than our competitors. We kind of underestimated how fast some of them were moving."

In response, Dell has "kind of changed our approach,'' he said. The company is "really focusing just on fundamentals -- great products, great service."

Pressed on whether the company can maintain its business model, Dell stuck to his lines: "There are lots of opportunities for us to do quite a bit better than we did last year. Some of the competitors did better. We didn't recognize how competitive the market was going to be.''

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May 15, 2006 2:39 PM

Michael Dell's "executive jewelry"

Posted by Brier Dudley

SAN DIEGO -- The PC titan's latest bling: a Latitude D410 with two mobile broadband radios -- choose from WiMax, EV-DO or HSPA -- for constant connectivity. Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are built-in as well. It goes on sale in about a month; the price wasn't disclosed.

What's on Michael's desk? A desktop powering two 30-inch, 4.1 million pixel, $2,100 flat-screen monitors, a configuration "which I highly recommend, by the way,'' he said during a conversation with Mark Anderson at FiRe.

What about iPods -- will people choose a simple device over a multifunction machine like the Media Center PC? Anderson asked. Dell said iPods are driving demand for PCs because people want to do more with their digital music and videos. "I don't think it's going to be an either or; we are seeing pretty good demand," Dell said.

Dell's other spending includes $18 billion on procurement this year in China, where Dell has two factories. The company is also building one in India, where it's increasing headcount from 10,000 to 20,000 over three years.

In India, "it's not outsourcing because those people work for us."

Do you do any outsourcing? Anderson asked. "We do some but most of what we do, we grow our business around the world," Dell said.

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May 15, 2006 2:01 PM

Symantec's John Thompson: Mac users beware

Posted by Brier Dudley

SAN DIEGO -- Mac users shouldn't be complacent about security, Symantec Chief Executive John Thompson said at FiRe today.

Windows has presented a bigger target for cyberattacks, but the nature of the threats is changing. Instead of broad virus attacks, hackers are increasingly focused on attacking individuals -- regardless of their computer type -- and stealing their money and identity.

"As you think about the changing threat landscape and the threat landscape moves from high profile viruses and worms to identity theft and fraud, that is not OS dependent,'' he said.

Thompson also had choice words for Microsoft. He said he's not worried about competition from Microsoft's new security offerings, but he suggested Symantec, maker of Norton-brand security products, will pursue antitrust remedies if Microsoft doesn't play "fair."

"Our only concern is whether or not Microsoft will play fairly,'' he said. "If they deliver their classic technology portfolio, we're not concerned at all.' However if they do something that is unfair, then that will be something that will be difficult to compete against, but we'll have other venues for making our point.'

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May 15, 2006 12:00 PM

Paul Allen's blog?

Posted by Brier Dudley

Joining the blogosphere?

SAN DIEGO -- When the FiRe audience was asked to raise hands if their story was ever misreported by the media, the guy sitting next to me raised his arm, then he sort of waggled his hand as if to say "sort of." The guy was Paul Allen.

Blogosphere elites Dave Winer and Dan Gillmor were suggesting that people can get their side of the story out directly by doing their own blogs.

I asked Paul if he's going to do his own blog. "I want to, but some of my PR people ....," he said, ending his sentence with a sort of shrug. Then an aide interjected that it takes a lot of time just to keep up with e-mail.

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May 15, 2006 11:34 AM

Another Microsoft worry: The second digital divide

Posted by Brier Dudley

SAN DIEGO -- Amid all the talk of the broadband enabled world, sensor networks and other new systems that are connecting people more than ever before, there's a risk that some people will choose to opt-out, creating a second digital divide, said Jonathan Murray, Microsoft's worldwide technology officer.

Murray, speaking at the FiRe conference, asked: "Will we see a new breed of people in society who decide they don't want to be digitally enabled? Will that create another discontinuity in society we need to address?"

Murray advises governments on how to prepare for future technologies.

His other looming concerns include "the potential limits that governments may put in place" that restrict industry's ability to take advantage of new technologies. He's also concerned the tech industry isn't prepared to deal with the social responsibility and ethcial issues presented by sensor networks and growing computational capability.

"I would respectfully suggest our industry needs to mature somewhat on how we deal with those issues," he said.

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May 15, 2006 10:39 AM

Shift happens

Posted by Brier Dudley

SAN DIEGO -- Some bits of wisdom from Friday Harbor technology commentator Mark Anderson's Future In Review Conference (FiRe) in San Diego that I'm attending this week:

-- "The technology is now there to make distances disappear, to make it seem the world is wormhole connected. How are we going to live and work in that environment?" said San Diego supercomputer researcher Larry Smarr, director of the California Institute of Telecommunications and Information Technology.

Smarr predicted genome research will lead to another industrial revolution as entrepreneurs capitalize on the research and experimentation done by nature over the ages and stored in DNA.

Smarr used to think supercomputing was for things like simulating supernovas before "these biologists came along." "We thought "biology is squishy stuff, why would they want a supercomputer?""

-- India's intellectual property protections have upgraded over the past two years and are now nearly 80 percent to 90 percent as strong as they are in the U.S., according to Wipro Chairman Azim Premji: Now Premji's nervous about the relative lack of IP protection in China, where Wipro has offices. "When an abuse would take place we are not sure the government would move to our support quickly and the laws of the government would support us,'' he said.

-- Telstra Chief Executive Sol Trujillo told attendees to be prepared because "shift happens." His 30-second rule for new technologies: "Can I explain to you how to use it in 30 seconds or less? If not, it's not going to get funded."

-- Blog pioneer Dave Winer said there would have been "a different outcome" for Dan Rather if he'd had his own blog. Winer said he started blogging because he wanted to spread the word about Macintosh software he was trying to sell and he wasn't getting any press.

"In this case we routed around the news media and quite effectively, and in the process defined a new medium that will always be routed-aroundable," Winer said, explaining that if bloggers try to become gatekeepers, other bloggers will find away around those gates.

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May 15, 2006 7:16 AM

Google, Microsoft and toilet seats

Posted by Brier Dudley

I had a hard time choosing where to start today's column on Google and the real threat it presents to Microsoft, because there were so many good anecdotes from last week's visit.

I thought about mentioning a brief hallway chat I had with Larry Page outside a cafeteria. I said I'd like to talk further about the competition with Microsoft sometime, and he said, "It's not a very interesting subject."

Perhaps I should have focused instead on Google's famous food service. Reporters last week were allowed into one of the cafeterias where a special hot food selection -- a mini Indian buffet- - was presented for the media day. It was better than most cafeterias but a little disappointing, given all the hype.

The curries were bland and the cold, stiff naan was partly undercooked, but it could all be washed down with a fresh made batch of saffron mango lassi that was better than any of the expensive bottled sodas they give away on campus.

I also thought about leading the column by mentioning that the bathroom next to the cafeteria is outfitted with Japanese heated bidet toilet seats. It was an outrageous luxury, especially since the temperature was cranked to the highest setting on a hot, sunny day. I've got an S300 at home and we've never had the heat so high, even in the coldest part of winter.

I resisted the temptation to make toilet jokes about Google's capital investments. But I have to mention that the toilet's wireless remote control worked better than the campus Wi-Fi network, which was on the fritz through most of the media events.

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May 12, 2006 1:23 PM

Google recruiting tools

Posted by Brier Dudley

Working code sure makes you thirsty.

After seeing the selection of free beverages at Google, it's hard to sympathize with Googlers fretting about their M&M supply.

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May 12, 2006 12:46 PM

Xbox piling up

Posted by Brier Dudley

The Xbox 360 and HD-DVD drive

So how long will it take Microsoft to put the HD-DVD player into the Xbox 360, instead of selling a kludgey add-on device?

The 360, with its Media Center extender features and slick industrial design, seemed like a step closer to the long-awaited all-in-one entertainment center device. But the external drive coming to the market later this year is heading back toward the old pile of PC stuff.

Meanwhile, here are some other thoughts on games, consoles and E3 from Kim Peterson during today's Q&A.

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May 12, 2006 12:41 PM

A lonely Qwest

Posted by Brier Dudley

So Qwest has a spine after all. Is it enough to salvage its reputation?

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May 10, 2006 1:23 PM

Google chow

Posted by Brier Dudley

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. -- Even before lunch Google already showered reporters with tasty snacks from its legendary cafeterias. Breakfast included smoked salmon, fruit platters with centerpieces like a melon carved into a swan. There are no coffee urns -- instead there are hundreds of French press plunge pots.

On the tables were bottles of Welsh mineral water and an amuse bouche -- a date and orange segment in a small dish of pollen, and a honey drizzled dried apricot on a bed of shelled pistachios and almonds.

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May 10, 2006 1:21 PM

Google: still doing no evil?

Posted by Brier Dudley

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. -- Asked if Google can stay true to its mission to do no evil, co-founder Sergey Brin said: "In general I think we're doing a very good job and can stay true to our mission but with increasing scrutiny there will always be people who disagree with one specific element or other and we won't always agree with everyone."

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May 10, 2006 12:38 PM

Google founder on Microsoft antitrust complaint

Posted by Brier Dudley

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. -- Asked why, given its apparent confidence, Google is talking to antitrust regulators about the placement of Microsoft's search engine in its new browser, co-founder Sergey Brin said it's thinking about what happened to Netscape.

"We certainly see the history with that particular company ... being a convicted monopoly and not necessarily playing fair in other situations -- Netscape and whatnot -- so we want to focus early on and make sure we at least are looking at the situations where power can be abused."

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May 10, 2006 12:04 PM

Google (actual) News

Posted by Brier Dudley

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. -- Announcements so far at Google's Media Day:

Google Trends: A service that lets you users see patterns of search activity. Type a term into the trends search window, and it will display a chart showing search activity for that term over several years. It also shows search activity for that term in particular cities, regions or languages.

Google Desktop, Version 4, including a new Google media player: Available for download. The big feature is Google Gadgets, similar to those available on the Mac operating system, from Yahoo! and on Microsoft's upcoming Windows Vista.

"The cornerstone of this launch is Google Gadgets," Vice President Marissa Mayer said.

Gadgets that come with the desktop include a weather device and a small application that displays events on user's Google calendar service.

The desktop asks users if they want to set up a personalized Google home page, similar to Microsoft's personal home page. Based on user's search history, the home page is automatically filled with features such as a display of their local weather conditions and data on their favorite stocks.

Fun elements include an optional pair of "eyes" that can be installed on a user's desktop. The eyes are a pair of O's from the Google logo, with black pupils that move around when the user moves their computer mouse.

Also announced: Google Co-op, a search refinement system that taps into user opinions and advice. It includes the ability for users to subscribe to Web information sources. It also takes advantage of user input to develop clusters of focused search results around popular topics such as health.

Google Notebook: A note-taking application that lets users cut and paste search results into a sort of on-screen scratch pad. Users can also take notes in the application, and share the content of notebooks with family and friends. This is similar to note-taking applications in Microsoft's Tablet PC software but doesn't require any particular hardware.

"Our core and where we innovate most is really inside search because at core Google is really a search company," Mayer said.

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May 9, 2006 11:13 AM

Microsoft Patch Tuesday

Posted by Brier Dudley

Today's batch: fixes for two "critical" vulnerabilities and one "moderate" vulnerability.

Windows XP users need the moderate patch and one of the critical patches. Windows Exchange users need the other critical patch.

Home users can get their fix here and IT types can get more detailed info here.

Fine print: The critical patch for XP users (and Windows 98 and ME users as well) fixes a vulnerability in Adobe's Macromedia Flash Player that could allow remote code execution. The moderate patch for XP users (and Windows 2000 and Server 2003 users) fixes a vulnerability in the Microsoft Distributed Transaction Coordinator that could allow a denial of service attack. The critical patch for Exchange is for a vulnerability that could allow remote code execution.

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May 9, 2006 11:00 AM

Steve Ballmer visits Linuxville, brings cash

Posted by Brier Dudley

Linux may be big in Oregon, but Microsoft takes credit for $3 billion worth of IT spending there last year.

The data was shared as Ballmer helped cut the ribbon on Portland State University's Northwest Center for Engineering, Science and Technology, which happens to include a "Microsoft Innovation Center."

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May 9, 2006 10:54 AM

Nintendo: Wii have a winner

Posted by Brier Dudley

We may have to stop making fun of Nintendo's Wii. The console seems like the hottest thing so far at the E3 show, at least from my remote vantage point.

A symphony game demonstrated today -- you wave the remote like a baton to speed or slow the musicians -- could be enough to wean me from first-person shooters.

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May 8, 2006 5:47 PM

Pearl Jam's nod to nerds

Posted by Brier Dudley

It used to be cutting edge for bands to sell MP3 recordings of their shows.

Pearl Jam is doing that again on its current tour. But it's also taking things to the next level - and probably winning over geek audiophiles - by offering higher quality, uncompressed recordings in the FLAC format for $5 more. (MP3 shows are $9.99 and FLACs are $14.99)

It's a cool service, especially if you're frustrated with thin-sounding MP3s. It's not really a bootleg, though, if you're paying the band $15 a pop.

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May 8, 2006 11:57 AM

May madness

Posted by Brier Dudley

A cheat sheet for the week's tech news:

Monday -- Sony gives PlayStation 3 status report at E3 game industry conference; Yahoo! announces new search ad platform to counter Microsoft/Google's adCenter/adSense.

Tuesday -- Microsoft and Nintendo weigh in at E3; Apple announces low-end laptop?

Wednesday -- New Google services presented at company's media day; Seattle's Technology Access Foundation leadership breakfast.

Thursday -- Expedia, Deutsche Telekom earnings.

Friday -- Fromage tech at Seattle Cheese Festival.

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May 8, 2006 11:13 AM

Apple MacBookies taking odds on Tuesday

Posted by Brier Dudley

The Macnoscenti is predicting that Apple Ciomputer will announce the long-awaited lower-end MacBook laptop with an Intel processor on Tuesday: it'll have a 13.3-inch screen, black or white cases, thinner and probably more expensive than the current iBook, which starts at $999.

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May 8, 2006 10:37 AM

The deals go on ...

Posted by Brier Dudley

If I waited to run today's column on local tech deals, I could have added these tidbits as well:

Seattle-based aQuantive considered merging with competitor ValueClick, based in Westlake Village, Calif., but the deal fell through over the past few days, according to the Wall Street Journal. Would Microsoft be interested in aQuantive?

Aventail today hooked up with AttachmateWRQ, adding the latter's terminal emulation software to its SSL VPN product.

The Journal also reported how Berkshire Hathaway Chairman Warren Buffett and Vice Chairman Charlie Munger pooh-poohed private equity wheeling and dealing at their company's shareholder meeting Saturday:

Munger on the current climate: "We have so many deal flippers in the game I think they're going to get in each others' way."

Buffett on private equity firms: "They invariably auction the business and are looking for strategic buyers," he said, adding that "a strategic buyer is just someone who pays too much."

Munger on privaty equity borrowing: "In the real estate market in the 1930s you could borrow more money against some real estate assets than you could sell them for. That's happening now in some parts of the private-equity world and it's weird."

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May 8, 2006 10:27 AM

Yahoo!: We're investing too ...

Posted by Brier Dudley

Following Microsoft's adCenter announcements last week, Yahoo! today said it's preparing a new search advertising platform that will be ready in the third quarter.

Is Yahoo! getting tired of Microsoft and Google getting all the attention? Here's part of its news release:
"Replacing the original system that created the search advertising industry, Yahoo! new platform will enable marketers to more quickly launch search advertising campaigns across Yahoo! and its distribution network, and help achieve better overall return on their search advertising investment."

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May 5, 2006 2:04 PM

Mini-Microsoft survival guide

Posted by Brier Dudley

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May 5, 2006 1:26 PM

Apple's iPhone, or a WiPod?

Posted by Brier Dudley

A patent for a device that could turn out to be the iPod phone was reported yesterday by a Mac enthusiast site.

The patent was based on plans Apple Computer submitted in 2004 for a digital media device with at least one speaker and the capability of connecting to Wi-Fi or cellular networks.

With or without telephony, it would be cool to be able to connect an iPod to a home wireless network without having to spend another $100 or more for aftermarket gizmos.

It's way past time for Apple and other MP3 makers to add this feature. The convenience would be huge, compared with the cost and bulk of the radios involved.

A WiPod would also be a great alternative to sweet but expensive wireless music systems like the Sonos. You could use a WiPod to distribute music around a home network without having to have a computer running, but that wouldn't do much for the iPod halo effect.

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May 5, 2006 12:32 PM

Microsoft seeks another kind of growth

Posted by Brier Dudley

At Seattle University today, the National Center for Women & Technology announced that it's getting $1 million from Microsoft to encourage more women to enter the tech industry.

"Ensuring a diverse, professional IT workforce is a priority, not an option, for the United States as our country faces a critical personnel shortage in IT and the potential erosion of the U.S. position as a leader in IT innovation,'' NCWIT Chief Executive Lucy Sanders said in a release.

Expect to hear more about the issue next week when the organization hosts a "town hall" meeting in Washington, D.C. The featured speaker is Microsoft Research boss Rick Rashid.

Microsoft hopes that its collaboration with the group will "inspire the imagination of students everywhere and encourage each one to pursue a career in the sciences," Rashid said in the release.

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May 4, 2006 2:01 PM

No wonder the Net seemed slow last month ...

Posted by Brier Dudley

Last month 694 million people 15 or older used the Internet, according to comScore Networks' first crack at estimating the global Internet audience.

Sound like a lot? It's still just 14 percent of the world's population in this age group, the report said.

The biggest audience by far -- 152 million -- was in the U.S. But as computer use spreads in other countries, the U.S. share of the total has fallen to less than a fourth, down from two-thirds a decade ago.

So is the glass 14 percent full, or 86 percent empty?

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May 4, 2006 11:34 AM

Monkey Boy's advice

Posted by Brier Dudley

"Now that we have all of this access to content on the Internet, I want to encourage all of you to be very careful about when you allow people to record you on videotape.'' Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer said today at the company's advertising summit. "You never know when it's going to come back and haunt you anymore.''

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May 4, 2006 10:49 AM

Ballard "E-Cycle" event

Posted by Brier Dudley

Ballard High School's Computers for the World club is holding an E-Cycle event on May 20 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the school's north parking lot.

It's taking old computers, monitors, printers and televisions that will be recycled or used for technology projects. The club has set up computer labs in developing countries, which didn't mind the lutefisk stained keyboards.

The club will charge recycling fees of $5 for computers, $10 for monitors, $5 for printers and 50 cents a pound for TVs and laser printers. Ballard Rotary is sponsoring the event. For more details, click here.

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May 4, 2006 10:28 AM

Phones to topple the iPod?

Posted by Brier Dudley

Wireless phones that store thousands of songs may surpass iPods and other standalone MP3 players, according to a new report from ABI Research.

"As the cellular handset becomes the one device that the world carries, the standalone MP3 player may well be left behind," analyst Alan Varghese said in a release. "What's important to many users is having one device that handles mobile music as well as the other functions -- phone calls, digital photography, email, web browsing -- now performed by mobile phones.

Varghese said new phones with hard drives store less music than the largest iPods, but most consumers don't care whether they're carrying 2,000 songs or 7,500 songs.

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May 3, 2006 2:25 PM

Microsoft's big picture: Seattle

Posted by Brier Dudley

A Microsoft researcher has created a 4 gigapixel photo of downtown Seattle a part of his work on mapping imagery. That's gigapixel, not megapixel. The news came out the day after a research group "roadshow" for press in Silicon Valley.

Researcher Michael Cohen hopes to create a 10 gigapixel image this summer. A word of advice: if Cohen emails you pictures from his summer vacation, don't open the attachment.

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May 3, 2006 2:05 PM


Posted by Brier Dudley

Microsoft execs are probably outraged by a story in today's Wall Street Journal about the MSN-Live advertising push.

Not because the story mentioned a possible hookup with Yahoo! -- Microsoft and Yahoo! have been working together for some time, and talk of an anti-Google alliance surfaced last October when they were jostling for the America Online search business.

What's likely to get them steaming in Redmond is the story's assertion that Microsoft needs to partner because its Web services don't reach as many people as the 100 million monthly Yahoo! visitors.

As Microsoft ramps up advertising sales, it's been desparately trying to let people know how many people visit MSN or use its Web services every month -- 465 million, according to the boilerplate on its press releases.

But does it really matter if MSN can't even sell more ads than AOL?

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May 2, 2006 5:53 PM

Fun with Microsoft code names

Posted by Brier Dudley

Microsofties are doing that self-critical thing over code names, specifically cool code names that never make it onto final products. It began with a post by software design test engineer Chris Smith, who was commenting on Nintendo's decision to change its new console's name from "Revolution" to "Wii":

Before I act too harshly on Nintendo for having a cooler codename than product name, here is a list of Microsoft codenames which would make for some pretty interesting products:

Bulletproof - Microsoft mail remote client
"The" Duke - Microsoft Xbox controller
Gandalf - Microsoft Encarta 93
Idaho - An early Windows prototype after XP (I'm from Idaho, so it's cool :)
Nemesis - Microsoft Windows Media Encoder 7.0
Omega - An early version of Microsoft Access
Tarantula - Microsoft personal web server (IIS for Windows 95)
Thunder - Microsoft Visual Basic v1.0
Zamboni - Microsoft Visual C++ v4.1

Smith's posting was picked up by Robert Scoble, who drew an interesting response this afternoon from Microsoft naming czar David Webster.

Webster said he's not trying to be the "fun police," but the company has to be really careful with names. His comment suggests that code naming could eventually be phased out.

My first and primary point is that we should be creating our real product names much sooner, thus reducing the need for codenames in the first place. The equity built in codenames is generally wasted. Buzz is built, communities develop, attachments form and then we switch the name to something new. This isn't a good thing.

So my main pitch to marketers across Microsoft is to drive naming timelines from disclosure dates, not RTM dates as has been the practice. If they do this early enough, no code name needed.

That would draw a hailstorm of protest, from journalists, at least.

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May 2, 2006 5:21 PM

SAP-py Duet

Posted by Brier Dudley

It's big news for both Microsoft and SAP that they'll deliver their joint Duet software next month. But it's hard to get worked up about a product they announced a year ago.

That said, I'm crossing my fingers and hoping this newspaper uses Duet to add a Microsoft interface to its SAP expense management system. The SAP interface is so strange and awkward that I avoid doing my expenses for months, leaving my money in someone else's pocket.

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May 2, 2006 4:50 PM

Van Oppen's new position?

Posted by Brier Dudley

What's going to happen to ADIC Chief Executive Peter van Oppen after the Quantum merger? It would be tough to move from Mercer Island to San Jose, Calif.

Perhaps van Oppen will join his pal and fellow Whitman College alum John Stanton at Trilogy Equity Partners, the low-profile venture firm Stanton started after selling Western Wireless to Alltel for $4.4 billion. After selling ADIC for $770 million, van Oppen merits at least a window office.

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May 2, 2006 12:47 PM

Vista slipping again?

Posted by Brier Dudley

Tech consultancy Gartner believes Vista may be slipping further into 2006, but Gartner clients shouldn't care -- the company has been telling them to wait until 2008 before they upgrade from XP.

"Microsoft's track record is clear; it consistently misses target dates for major operating system releases. We don't expect broad availability of Windows Vista until at least 2Q07, which is nine to 12 months after Beta 2,'' the report said.

Microsoft insists that Gartner is wrong and Vista will still be available to enterprise customers in November and everyone else in January.

Rick Sherlund at Goldman Sachs said the schedule should become clearer after the second beta version of Vista ships sometime by June, but slipping another month or two wouldn't hurt the stock as much as the last delay that pushed wide release beyond the 2006 holiday season.

Either way Microsoft should perhaps thank Gartner, for giving MSFT stock another blow while Microsoft is accelerating its stock buyback program.

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May 1, 2006 1:50 PM

Preemptive defense?

Posted by Brier Dudley

Did the Internet Explorer team anticipate that today's New York Times story would play up Google's concerns about search provider placement in IE7?

In a Friday blog posting, presumably after he was interviewed for the story, team leader Dean Hachamovitch reiterated how easy it is to switch search engines in IE7. He also pointed out that when you install the browser, it looks for your chosen search provider and sets it as the "default" search service.

The search preference feature worked when I installed the browser awhile back -- the browser's search pane automatically set Google as the default, but it can be switched to MSN Search or another provider by using the drop-down menu.

The story raises an interesting question: Is Google getting nailed by Microsoft, or is it getting nervous about the competition?

Readers of the Explorer team blog (the team and ...?) seem pretty worked up by the story, judging from comments today on the posting. Either that, or disgraced former New York Times reporter Jayson Blair is really into browser default settings.

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May 1, 2006 11:27 AM

Ballmer weighs in

Posted by Brier Dudley

So who was Steve Ballmer's Friday memo targeting -- employees or skittish investors?

The April 28 memo, first reported today by Bloomberg News, was Ballmer's explanation of why Microsoft is spending heavily and his reassurance that the company isn't frittering away its billions. It also provides more details about the War on Google and the advertising push that I mentioned in today's column.

"Throughout our history, Microsoft has won by making big, bold bets. We've always taken a long-term approach, striving to solve the hardest problems in computing and working to realize huge new opportunities in vast new markets through investments in innovation across the broad spectrum of human endeavor,'' he wrote. "I believe that now is not the time to scale back the scope of our ambition or the scale of our investment. While our opportunities are greater than ever, we also face new competitors, faster-moving markets and new customer demands."

The current big bets include Xbox, Internet services and its adCenter advertising network.

Why the negative reaction among investors? "The bottom-line result of these investments created a shift in our near-term profitability that was a surprise. The change in our stock price reflects this."

The Google mention: "Further development of adCenter is key -- our goal is to create the Web's largest advertising network, giving us an engine that will enable us to monetize our services and compete against Google.

The outlook: "These bets will pay off in FY07, when we'll see revenue that is expected to reach $49.5 to $50.5 billion, for a growth rate of 12-14 percent. Longer term, our opportunities for growth are phenomenal, and I expect the next five years will see results that eclipse the performance of the last five."

But why explain all this in a memo to employees that trickles into the press? Why didn't he jump in and clear up questions during last Thursday's earnings call when things started going south?

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May 1, 2006 10:47 AM

Loudeye finds its Muze

Posted by Brier Dudley

A month after auditors warned investors that Loudeye was dangerously low on cash, the company sold a set of its assets to digital media giant Muze for $11 million.

Loudeye is selling its U.S. based Web and mobile music commerce services. Altogether it's transferring businesses that generated 25 percent of its sales last year.

The company said the move will allow it to focus on its global OD2 music downloading platform that's doing well in Europe.

But is it selling the farm to save some cows? Since the announcement the stock has fallen about 8 percent. More details on the company's restructing will probably come with its first quarter report on May 9.

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Gadgets and games | Fun stuff I've written about lately includes Apple's iPhone, Hewlett-Packard's HDX laptop and Microsoft's Halo3. Also on the radar are new digital video boxes such as the Tivo HD and the Vudu.