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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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July 31, 2006 10:34 AM

Microsoft analysts, Steve Ballmer and the Rover

Posted by Brier Dudley

There has been some interesting feedback from today's column.

One person said the buybacks and dividends indicate Microsoft is a "sunset" company in the declining phase of its history -- "it can't find a better way to spend that cash and thereby increase future profits."

I wonder if that perception would change if Microsoft did a blockbuster acquisition -- Yahoo! perhaps -- or if the Xbox business becomes profitable sooner than 2008. Ballmer and other executives were asked at last week's analyst meeting why the company isn't buying more companies to raise its online profile, and they said Microsoft is buying lots of small companies and absorbing them about as fast as it can.

Car buffs may have noted that Ballmer is still being loyal to his family history with Ford -- since 2000, Land Rover has been part of Ford. Before that, the marque was owned by BMW, whose chairman, Helmut Panke, also serves on Microsoft's board of directors.

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

July 27, 2006 11:50 AM

Robbie Bach: Zune coming in fall to U.S.

Posted by Brier Dudley

Think of Zune in context of Microsoft's entertainment lineup including Xbox Live, Xbox, Windows Live, MSN, Microsoft's TV efforts and Media Center PCs, Bach said today at Microsoft's financial analyst meeting.

"It enables us to complete the picture ... The experience of having Zune in that connected environment is going to be dramatically better than you get just having a portable media player," he said.

Other tidbits: The first device is coming to the U.S. this fall. Additional devices will come in 2007 and be sold in additional countries.

Comments | Category: Zune |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

July 26, 2006 6:01 PM

Zunes to come preloaded with tunes?

Posted by Brier Dudley

This blog entry by Zune team member Richard Winn suggests the music player will ship with some music already loaded onto its hard drive. I wonder if they'll have surprise tracks for buyers to discover, or if record companies will pay Microsoft to preload certain tracks, or both.

At the least, it sounds like there's some creative thinking going on about Zune real estate. Maybe Robbie Bach will share more details at Microsoft's analyst meeting today.

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

July 25, 2006 4:05 PM

Windows Media and the Zune blogs

Posted by Brier Dudley

Microsoft's Zune media player and service are taking a different tack than Windows Media, so it was interesting to read a blog posting today by Sean Alexander, a member of the Windows Digital Media End to End Experiences team.

I talked to Sean recently about his work on Clix, another iPod challenger supported by Microsoft.

Zune seems to be a snub of Windows Media, but Alexander said it's perfectly normal for Microsoft and other players in the digital media market to take multiple, contradictory approaches.

At least two of the largest consumer electronics manufacturers compete on not one, not two, but three levels:
-- They supply memory for their own, and competitive MP3 players.
-- They design and sell MP3 "engines" (systems on a chip) for their own, and competitive MP3 device manufacturers
-- They design, build and compete for retail space for their own, branded MP3 players
There are many other examples that can be drawn within Microsoft as well; for example, Microsoft Game Studios competes with independent game publishers for consumer dollars on the same platform (Xbox) also built by Microsoft. In all these cases, relationships of trust must be established independently between product groups or divisions.

Alexander said Zune is "an integral part of Microsoft's vision for 'connected entertainment' that spans across offerings including as games, music and devices."

He also plugged Zune Insider, the blog of Cesar Menendez, one of two 'softies emerging as the official Zune blog voices. The other is Madison and Pine, the blog of Richard Winn, a music marketing guy who joined the Zune team last month.

Of course there's also a bunch of Zune blogs that have emerged. It's hard to say if they're enthusiast sites or just opportunistic ad vehicles, but Cesar's site has a bunch of links.

Comments | Category: Digital media , Microsoft , Zune |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

July 25, 2006 3:43 PM

Symantec downgraded, time for a hacker scare

Posted by Brier Dudley

Is it a coincidence that a new PC security scare appeared just as Wall Street started frowning on security software vendors McAfee and Symantec?

Merrill Lynch downgraded Symantec from "buy" to "neutral" today, and issued a sector report that found "overall weakness" and "erosion of security spending."

"With a typically slower summer season closing in, we do not expect any meaningful upside demand catalysts barring an unanticipated virus outbreak or other event,'' the report said.

Then voila, Symantec announced "attack code" had been released for two Windows vulnerabilities. There have been no actual attacks, according to this ominous sounding Cnet report.

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

July 25, 2006 3:34 PM

Watchguard + Attachmate?

Posted by Brier Dudley

Francisco Partners, the investment group that bought WatchGuard today, was also involved in the purchase and merger of WRQ and Attachmate. Will it roll WatchGuard into the bundle?

If so, we've got a new ticker candidate: WAW, for WatchGuard-Attachmate-WRQ.

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

July 25, 2006 3:19 PM

Phone companies: Innovators or laggards?

Posted by Brier Dudley

An essay in Business Week's July 31 issue says RBOCs are laggards in the innovation department.

But today's Wall Street Journal has a story that says RBOCs are coming up with great new broadband products to compete with cable companies.

Qwest isn't mentioned in the Journal story.

Comments | Category: Telecom |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

July 24, 2006 10:52 AM

Microsoft-Yahoo! column today

Posted by Brier Dudley

One thing I didn't have room to detail in today's column was the A-list talent that Gary Flake corralled for Live Labs. His team includes high-profile Microsoft researchers like Eric Horvitz and Jim Gray. Their presence indicates the company's high hopes for the venture.

Now I'll have to look into how Microsoft Research is being affected by spinoffs like Live Labs and adCenter Labs.

Comments | Category: Microsoft , Yahoo! |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

July 24, 2006 10:46 AM

Buzz over 103-inch, 1080p plasma TV

Posted by Brier Dudley

This TV cost more than my first house. Could TVs create a new market for the mortgage industry, after the real estate market crashes?

From the NYT story: "The screen's 90-inch length and 48-inch height makes it equivalent in size to four 50-inch TV's, the company said. With the frame and speakers, it measures nearly nine feet by six feet. It weighs about 450 pounds and has to be shipped in a box with a specially designed suspension system."

Comments | Category: Gadgets & products |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

July 24, 2006 10:41 AM

Park the Dell today

Posted by Brier Dudley

I like my Latitude D410 but there's no way I'm doing any laptop computing in a heat wave, especially after reading these stories about overheating problems.

Comments | Category: Dell , Gadgets & products |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

July 24, 2006 10:25 AM

Rick Sherlund likes the Zune

Posted by Brier Dudley

The Goldman Sachs analyst expects the Zune to be talked up Thursday during MIcrosoft's analyst meeting.

"Scant details are confirmed officially, but we are encouraged by the many synergies between Zune
and Microsoft's other business," he said in a note to clients today. "We may be able to comment further when more details arrive, likely at the Thursday financial analyst meeting when Robbie Bach is expected to discuss this effort in more detail."

Comments | Category: Gadgets & products , Microsoft , Zune |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

July 21, 2006 2:06 PM

Xbox Zune's viral marketing campaign begins

Posted by Brier Dudley

A groovy video teasing the Zune player and service is now circulating, and it may outdo the Origami tease.

The "Comingzune" video is a cartoon with a bald man cradling a rabbit. A little person comes over and strokes the bunny.

It's set to the song "Us" by New York singer Regina Spektor, which may give a clue as to one feature of the device. The snippet includes the lyric, "take photographs and have fun."

Comments | Category: Digital media , Gadgets & products , Microsoft , Zune |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

July 21, 2006 12:39 PM

It's official: Microsoft launching music player, service

Posted by Brier Dudley

The company confirmed today that the Zune brand music player and service will be available later this year. Here's the official comment, from the group that produces the Xbox:

"Today we confirmed a new music and entertainment project called Zune,'' Chris Stephenson, general manager of marketing in the Entertainment and Devices group, said in a statement. "Under the Zune brand, we will deliver a family of hardware and software products, the first of which will be available this year. We see a great opportunity to bring together technology and community to allow consumers to explore and discover music together."

Microsoft aimed the announcement at the music industry, announcing it in the new issue of Billboard magazine.

Comments | Category: Digital media , Gadgets & products , Microsoft , Zune |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

July 20, 2006 3:11 PM

Portland's free citywide Wi-Fi project

Posted by Brier Dudley

I wish I'd mentioned Portland's project in Monday's column.

The city chose MetroFi to develop a network that's being designed to provide 1 Mbps downloads to 95 percent of the city within two years. It's going to the city council this week for final approval.

"The contract doesn't require the city to help finance the $10 million network, for example, or to spend any money on wireless services,'' the Oregonian reported.

MetroFi expects to make money by selling banner ads. Portland residents can buy ad-free service for $20 a month.

The system won't be fast enough to deliver high-def video, but it's four times faster than the basic DSL service that Qwest now provides in Seattle for about $30 a month.

How did Portland land the contract? The city offered to be the network's "anchor tenant" under a deal that may save the city money, if the network works as promised.

The Oregonian reported:

Portland also plans to subscribe to the network for far-flung city offices and, if technical issues can be worked out, to cut the cost of collecting credit card data from its automated parking meters. MetroFi's contract sets a $9 monthly fee to serve each meter, for example, compared to at least $15 a month that Portland now pays.
In total, Portland estimates it could spend up to $16 million over five years on wireless services from MetroFi. While it has no formal commitment to spend anything, Kleier said, the city considers the service a good deal -- provided MetroFi's service works.

Comments | Category: Public policy , Telecom |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

July 20, 2006 1:23 PM

Microsoft says it loud, says it proud: Buy MSFT

Posted by Brier Dudley

Microsoft's earnings were fine, but the jaw-dropper today was its announcement that it's buying up to $40 billion worth of its stock - equivalent to 17 percent of the company's current value. That's on top of the $30 billlion it just finished buying.

It's sending a pretty strong message to Wall Street, which whined last quarter about the $2 billion the company plans to spend on new business ventures. Ballmer and company are trying to tell investors: "We can spend on new ventures, and buy more stock than you ever imagined" and "You may not like MSFT but we do, a lot."

But instead of spending $70 billlion on MSFT, why didn't the company just buy Google? The search giant was valued today at $83 billion.

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

July 20, 2006 11:14 AM

UW taps local assets

Posted by Brier Dudley

Going through my mail at home yesterday, I was amazed by the talent the University of Washington's Extension program has lined up to teach technical courses this autumn. Only in Seattle can you take an evening programming class from managers at the world's largest software, aerospace and e-commerce companies.

Here's a sample:

SQL Server Administration: Taught by Euan Garden, group program manager, Microsoft SQL Server Strategy and Architecture Team.

Introduction to Visual Basic: Shamez Rajan, Microsoft program manager, and Lou Tylee, Boeing associate technical fellow.

Basic Perl Programming: Joel Grow, software development engineer.

Perl, the Web and Databases: Doug Treder, senior software development engineer.

Network Architectures, Protocols and Standards: James Farricker, Boeing technical fellow and chief engineer.

Establishing Project Management Leadership in the Organization: Phyllis Sweeney, Microsoft director of product life cycle, with consultant Clive Schuelein.

That's just a few of the engineers and managers contributing to the program. Other companies represented include Siemens, InfoSpace, Group Health and Washington Mutual.

Comments | Category: Education , Tech work |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

July 20, 2006 10:09 AM

Most bloggers still get news from newspapers

Posted by Brier Dudley

That's one nugget I took from the latest Pew survey of bloggers.

Half of bloggers participating in the survey said they get "news" from other blogs, but that's not the only way they feed their voracious appetites for information. The survey found that 85 percent of active bloggers also read newspapers.

Blogs are another platform for individual expression, and that's what most people use them for -- 76 percent "say that they blog to document their personal experiences and share them with others."

Nine out of ten bloggers do so for fun or as a hobby, and just 13 percent say blogging is a big part of their life.

"Not surprisingly, those who say blogging is an important part of their life are more apt to update their blog frequently,'' the report said. "This small group is also more likely to earn money from their blog, via advertisements, tip jars or paid content, and to consider their blog a form of journalism."

This all makes me think we should spend more time thinking about blogs as a popular art form, and less time comparing them to the news media.

Blogs are a great way for people to communicate and share knowledge, especially groups of that have traditionally had less voice in the news media. They've also become another ingredient in the soup of news and information consumed by people who spend a lot of time online.

But as long as blogs are used mostly for individual expression, updated sporadically and written primarily for bloggers' friends and families by people who still read newspapers, the dreaded mainstream media is safe.

Other tidbits from the survey:

-- About half of bloggers use their blogs as information storage or memory devices. It's interesting that people are willing to trade privacy for free, online archiving of their personal diaries and photos.

-- Bloggers are less likely to be white than the average Internet user. The survey found that 60 percent of bloggers are white, compared with 74 percent for average Internet users. Is this because of the accessibility of blogging tools, or something about the medium?

-- Bloggers also tend to be young suburbanites. Some 54 percent are under the age of 30, more than half live in suburbs and a third live in urban areas. Only 13 percent live in rural regions, where there are more things to do outdoors.

The survey is interesting but it's not conclusive; it has a 7 percent margin of error, and was based on surveys of 233 bloggers, taken from Pew's population sample of 7,012 people.

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

July 18, 2006 5:19 PM

Cybage expanding near Microsoft India

Posted by Brier Dudley

Microsoft must be doing a lot of business with Cybage, an offshore software development company based in Pune, India.

Cybage announced that it's building a 4,000-seat campus in Hyderabad, to be closer to its valued customer's India Development Center. Cybage also has an office in Redmond that it opened in 2004 to work on Microsoft projects.

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

July 18, 2006 4:49 PM

Yahoo! flickers on Wall Street

Posted by Brier Dudley

A weak quarterly report pushed YHOO down 14 percent, to $27.80, in extended trading today. The company said its profit was hurt by stock option expenses, and its new ad platform will be delayed until the fourth quarter.

I wonder how much Yahoo! is suffering from the loss of Microsoft business. Microsoft finally launched its own search ad platform in May, ending Yahoo!-powered advertising on its U.S. site.

Comments | Category: Yahoo! |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

July 18, 2006 4:02 PM

Valve's must-have home improvement tool

Posted by Brier Dudley

I could have used the Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device on my last remodeling project. It's coming sometime -- holiday '06? -- from Kirkland's Valve Software. Here's a video tease.

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

July 17, 2006 4:55 PM

Today's column on Seattle broadband

Posted by Brier Dudley

Today's column on Seattle's efforts to develop a superfast broadband network was a tough one. I don't want to be a naysayer and I hope the city does get a better network soon. But I also think the community ought to have more of a conversation about how much it wants to contribute to a private system.

I'm also curious about whether Seattle should involve neighboring communities and King County in the process. A regional plan may be impossible with all the franchises and telecommunications regulations, but at least smaller communities could benefit from Seattle's research.

We published a list of companies that responded to Seattle's request for interest, but the companies aren't all interested in providing service to consumers. Some are offering to provide services or equipment. Microsoft and Google aren't on the list.

Comments | Category: Public policy |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

July 17, 2006 4:41 PM

Online dating worked for Microsoft's Gary Flake

Posted by Brier Dudley

Gary Flake, head of Microsoft's Live Labs group, made a confession at the company's Faculty Summit today: He and his wife didn't really meet at a bookstore.

They actually met at seven years ago, back when online dating was still pretty nerdy. The bookstore line was just a "cover story."

"Now it's not anything to be embarassed about,'' he said.

Other nuggets from his presentation:

-- Cellphones in five years are likely to have the power of today's desktop PCs. "I'm anticipating that at some point we'll see PCs challenged by cellphones,'' he said, noting research of usage in Asia and young consumers that found "people think of this as their universal device, not necessarily the computer."

-- On Google trouncing Overture, where Flake used to be chief science officer: "They learned efficiencies we couldn't learn fast enough."

-- At Microsoft, Live Labs is trying to sprinkle "pixie dust" on promising projects.

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

July 17, 2006 3:02 PM

Microsoft's new financial reporting: Less is not more

Posted by Brier Dudley

Over the past couple of years, Microsoft seemed to get more and more transparent about its financial performance. But it took a big step backward today when it announced that it will start lumping together the results of several key product groups in its financial reports.

The company said it will report the financial performance of five business units, instead of seven, starting in the 2007 fiscal year, which began July 1. It said the changes better reflect a September reorganization that created three business groups.

It may track better with internal alignments, but providing details on fewer individual units will make it more difficult for investors and the public to gauge the performance of crucial emerging businesses, including Xbox, phone software and search advertising.

Will hot businesses cover for laggards? Business solutions will be lumped with Office, making it harder for investors to tell when and how the company's investments in Great Plains Software and Navision pay off.

It will also be harder to gauge progress in the War on Google, since MSN and its Web advertising business will be lumped with Windows Live, which also sells PC security and maintenance services.

Also difficult to interpret will be the success of two promising new businesses at the company -- Xbox and mobile devices. They will be reported as a single entity, now that both units are within the Entertainment and Devices Division.

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

July 14, 2006 2:22 PM

VC ahoy

Posted by Brier Dudley

Valley bigwig Tom Perkins' superyacht made its public debut in Italy today. I know this because a PR agent for the engineering company that designed the boat sent a press release about sea trials performance of the 87.5 meter, $100 million "Maltese Falcon."

"As the world's most technologically advanced, privately owned superyacht is officially presented to the world in Italy on Friday 14th July, reports from sea trials already show she is destined to become the largest and fastest personal sailing boat in the world," the release said.

The release noted that "Perkins' personal enthusiasm for technical innovation and a desire for cost effective manufacturing, resulted in a combination of the world's leading experts working from a shipyard in Turkey. As well as providing the space required, the cost effective work force was a key factor in choosing this location, as the estimated build time was put at around 1 million man hours."

What took so much time? A high-tech clipper ship: "Maltese Falcon has three free standing masts -- each one 57 metres high and weighing 26 tons. Each mast has six curved carbon fibre yards, making the rig look like those found on conventional square riggers. Each mast carries five individual sails that can be set separately. Uniquely, however, when all are set, they combine to create a single continuous sail. Because the masts are free standing, they can be rotated to suit the wind direction. To maximise speed, the sails are trimmed to the wind by rotating the mast, thus making the boat much more aerodynamically efficient."

I asked when it will sail into Puget Sound but the PR person didn't reply. More details about the project are in the press release here.

Comments | Category: none|Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

July 14, 2006 2:12 PM

Official Google fires up on click fraud posting

Posted by Brier Dudley

Googlers seem a little touchy about this subject. Apparently this is what set them off: "Google CEO on click fraud: 'let it happen' is perfect economic solution."

They protest too much, and too slowly - does it take a week to get a comment for the Official Google Blog cleared by the legal and PR department in Mountain View?

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

July 13, 2006 2:07 PM

KOMO makes comScore charts

Posted by Brier Dudley

It was a fluke of the Web, but Seattle-based Fisher Communications' Web site was the fastest-growing Web site in the country last month, according to a new report from comScore.

Fisher's KOMO-TV ran a segment on inflammatory breast cancer that ricocheted around the Web, pushed in part by a chain email, attracting 5.3 million users. That gave Fisher's site a 559 percent gain during the month.

Gay and lesbian sites and online gambling sites also surged last month, growing 16 percent and 13 percent respectively, making them the highest gaining Web site categories.

The top six Web properties in the U.S. were, in the following order: Yahoo!, Time Warner, Microsoft, Google, eBay and

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

July 13, 2006 1:53 PM

Xbox/Argo/Zune MP3 player: Get down with brown

Posted by Brier Dudley

The mystery device will be available in brown with green highlights, according to Digital Media News. It will also come in black and a third, undisclosed color.

The report, citing music executives who received a demo yesterday, said it's comparable to a 30 gig iPod and Microsoft will start selling them in the fall. It also said the massive Argo marketing campaign will include Super Bowl ads.

I wonder if the ad will have a woman throwing a sledgehammer?

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

July 11, 2006 2:14 PM

Redmond company's Mumbai team unaffected by bombings

Posted by Brier Dudley

The terrorist attack in Mumbai on Tuesday didn't directly affect MAQ Software, a Redmond-based company with a big office in the Indian financial center.

"It seems that all of our people are fine as far as we know. We will lose part of the day tomorrow because trains will be disrupted,'' Rajeev Agarwal, managing consultant, said via email.

MAQ now has a redundant setup in India. It has opened another office in Hyderabad, where a number of Seattle tech companies have outposts.

Hyderabad doesn't have the density and mass transit of Mumbai, which is India's equivalent of New York City, but the smaller city is not immune to violent flareups by rebel groups. When I was there a few years ago the guidebooks warned visitors about rebels operating in a nearby tiger preserve.

Comments | Category: Asia , Entrepreneurs |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

July 11, 2006 11:35 AM

It's Microsoft patch Tuesday

Posted by Brier Dudley

This month there are seven security fixes available here -- five critical ones and two that are merely important.

Of the critical fixes, two are for Windows and three for Office. Technical details are here.

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

July 11, 2006 10:58 AM

More details on the Xbox Argo project

Posted by Brier Dudley

Is the Argo team anxious to start talking about their project? More details about the not-so-secret Xbox device and service are coming out.

Gizmodo floated a rumored name for the device: The Zune.

Engadget ran what it said was an image of the device.

But the most interesting tidbit was a comment posted at Joystiq.

It's dangerous to guess the identity of anonymous commenters, but this person seemed pretty looped in. The comment was filled with Microsoft acronyms like "PMC" for Portable Media Center and XBLM for "Xbox Live Marketplace," and it had that enthusiastic tone you hear from Microsoft product managers. The comment was also posted under the name Jason, who was of course the captain of the Argo.

"Jason" said the device could be priced around $199 and sold in bundles with Xbox 360s for $498 or $598. He also said it's a great strategy to provide a device that can play games downloaded from the Xbox Live Arcade such as Geometry Wars. Here's the comment:

"Everyone is missing the point... If you give me a DAP that has WiFi, a cool interface like the Windows PMC interface (or better yet a blade interface like the 360 has with themes!), a unified subscription to URGE or someother MS service that I can use on my DAP or my PC (oh and it will probably be connected to my 360 too), the ability to play XBLM games like Geometry Wars (and not have to pay for them again!), and PERFECT connectivity with WMP11 then I am SOLD!!!! I'm sure they will all have the same styling as the 360... they will probably even support different face plates, etc... that was a big thing with Allard... so the basic shape of the player will be the same but everyone could customize it to fit there own style...

Also... if they really connect all these forms of LIVE together and I only have to buy a single copy of Bejeweled and I can play it on any of my devices that will be HUGE!!! How cool would it be running around playing UNO on a DAP with your own music playing in the background!!!

Oh and if MS does all this there are HELPING push the XBOX brand... if there is a DAP that does all this stuff for $199 then you could pickup the 360 and the DAP as a package for $498 or $598!!! a much better value than the PS3 with a questionable blu-ray drive!

Really think about all the cool things they did to make the XBOX 360 great for gaming the community... take all those innovations and apply them to the DAP market!! This could be HUGE!"

Also huge will be the anger directed toward Microsoft by other device makers. Here's a comment that was posted on my blog, apparently by a reader in Korea where Microsoft has partnered with device makers like iRiver:

"if it is true story, it would be the worst business case ending cooperation between MS and iriver."

Comments | Category: Gadgets & products , Microsoft |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

July 10, 2006 1:45 PM

Googling for malicious Web sites

Posted by Brier Dudley

The story's been out for a few days, but Computerworld had a good rundown of security firm Websense using Google's binary search capabilities to track down thousands of malicous web sites.

The kicker at the story's end: Google may be developing a file search service.

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

July 10, 2006 11:26 AM

A Microsoft take on Google's GBuy

Posted by Brier Dudley

Kim Cameron isn't the voice of Microsoft, but he's the company guru on identity and authentication technology, so his blog entries on Google's new GBuy service have been great reading.

It's also refreshing to see Cameron's thoughtful analysis of the competition.

And it's entertaining to see Cameron use the same tactic that Sun Microsystems and others used to deflate Microsoft's early attempts to turn Passport/Hailstorm into the world's authentication system. He's calling for Google to embrace an open, federated approach so that GBuy works well with other systems like, say, Microsoft's Live ID.

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

July 10, 2006 11:13 AM

Adobe founders honored

Posted by Brier Dudley

High-tech trade association AeA is giving its Medal of Achievement award this year to Adobe founders Charles M. Geschkle and John E. Warnock. AeA has been giving out the annual award since 1959, but this is the first year it has gone to people in the software sector.

The winners were announced today. They'll get the award at an Oct. 18 dinner in San Jose, Calif.

Comments | Category: none|Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

July 10, 2006 10:32 AM

The Xpod column

Posted by Brier Dudley

Good feedback so far on today's column, including a note from someone at Microsoft who thanked me for the commentary that touched on some of the big problems is company is having.

I also heard from guy with a email address who said he's tired of all the cozy puff pieces about Microsoft in the Seattle papers.

It might have disrupted that balance, but if I'd had more room in the column I would have added more background details on how an MP3 player would complement the Xbox 360 accessory line. I might also have mentioned that the Xbox group signaled its leanings at the 360 launch by playing up the console's compatibility with the iPod and other non-Microsoft devices.

But like I said in the column, the story is about much more than just the device. Everybody and their cousin is rumored to be developing iPod challengers now, including and RealNetworks.

The devices get lots of ink now, but I wonder if we'll soon be paying more attention to the services and the overall media experience that a portable player, desktop player and online storefront provide. Apple's iTunes is my favorite desktop player and it has tons of great features, but it seems kind of dated.

Software media players in general have a database/techie feel that's great for enthusiasts who like to sort and organize their music. But these controls are intimidating to people who aren't as comfortable with computers and expect the simplicity of a home stereo system. Could that be limiting mainstream users' transition to digital music?

Speaking of limiting, I wonder if antitrust restrictions on Windows Media Player are another motivation for Microsoft to develop a digital media suite with a different brand. Regulators in Europe and Korea have ordered the company to sell versions of Windows without a bundled media player.

I wonder if those regulators would allow Microsoft to bundle an Xbox-branded player with new PCs - not as part of Windows, but as a third-party software product added at the discretion of PC makers.

Comments | Category: Zune |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

July 6, 2006 11:16 AM

The pack goes wild over Microsoft iPod rumors

Posted by Brier Dudley

Bloomberg's report about a Microsoft iPod competitor is a rehash of a June 16 Reuters story, adding only the anticipated Christmas ship date.

Both stories are also followups to a March story by San Jose Mercury News reporter Dean Takahashi, who found out about Microsoft's work on a PSP-like device while working on another book about the Xbox.

But the Bloomberg story caught the media gulf stream and has the tech journalism pack in a frenzy. The joke would be on the pack, if it turns out to be hyping just another version of Microsoft's Portable Media Center.

I still think it would be bad form for Microsoft to start producing its own media players after working so closely with its hardware partners to develop Microsoft-friendly devices.

Comments | Category: Digital media , Gadgets & products , Microsoft |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

July 5, 2006 4:27 PM

Cnet flamed for telling gadget fans how to game Costco

Posted by Brier Dudley

Cnet drew some nasty comments today after running a story that explained how to manipulate Costco's return policy -- taking back flat-screen TVs after the price falls, for instance.

Most of the comments ripped the online publication, saying the story could lead to abuse and demise of the generous policy.

One reader chided Cnet for apparently changing the headline. The story was teased in an e-mail newsletter this morning as "How to game Costco for free upgrades." This afternoon the headline read "Is Costco's HDTV return policy ripe for abuse?"

Of course it's ripe for abuse. Savvy Costco users already know about the great return policy. We'll have to pull an Eric Schmidt on Cnet if they screw that up.

The flap actually says more about online media than it does about Costco. Cnet has a great feedback mechanism, but if it's using its flexible format to make controversial headlines vanish you've got to wonder about its conviction and accountability.

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July 5, 2006 2:55 PM

WRQ detached from Attachmate

Posted by Brier Dudley

WRQ, a legendary name in Seattle's tech community, is no more. After a series of mergers that created AttachmateWRQ, the company recently dropped WRQ from its name and now goes by Attachmate.

Was it some kind of payback? After WRQ merged with Attachmate last year, headquarters were based in WRQ's Seattle offices. So WRQ got to keep its offices, and Attachmate got to keep its name.

The renaming was slipped into a press release on another topic, the finalization of the company's acquisition of NetIQ. The $495 million deal creates "a $400 million company serving more than 40,000 customers in over 60 countries, with near complete penetration of the Global 10,000."

It sounds like IPO time. They ought to pay homage to WRQ by listing the stock as AWRQ.

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July 5, 2006 2:44 PM

Checking in with former 'softie Patrick Awuah

Posted by Brier Dudley

I had coffee the other day with Patrick Awuah, the former Microsoftie who started a private university in his native Ghana.

Patrick was in town visiting with supporters of Ashesi University, which has graduated its first class and is approaching the financial breakeven point. The school is now in leased buildings in Accra but it owns some land, and Patrick is looking for donors to fund campus construction.

But we also talked about the World Cup. Patrick said there were televisions at the school where students and faculty could watch the games -- along with everyone else in Accra. When Ghana scored, he could hear a roar as the whole city cheered at once.

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July 5, 2006 2:30 PM

Recruiting shenanigans column

Posted by Brier Dudley

I wish I had more space in Monday's column on recruiting shenanigans to explain how I came across Nancy Corbett, the woman whose experiences with tech recruiters inspired the piece.

I'm a fan of old school e-mail lists, including one that provides advice and support to women in the Seattle area tech industry. That's where I came across Corbett offering advice to others who were asking about questionable recruiting practices.

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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.