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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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October 30, 2006 4:30 PM

UW Computer Science: The next generation

Posted by Brier Dudley

During the school's annual Industrial Affiliates meeting with tech companies this morning, Hank Levy outlined research areas that the UW Computer Science & Engineering Department will be emphasizing. They include:

-- Human-computer interaction
-- Digital entertainment, including games and animation
-- Computing and biology
-- Neural engineering
-- Computer security
-- Machine learning/datamining

These are also areas where the school is likely to be recruiting new faculty.

The department's education initiatives include:

-- Possible creation of a five-year bachelor's/master's degree program.
-- Creating new degree tracks such as machine learning.
-- Increasing the number of undergraduate and graduate students.
-- Offering a minor in computer science.

Today's event was really about student research, which was demonstrated to companies that work with the UW and may support or license its technology.

I heard demonstrations in rooms crowded with representatives from Microsoft, Intel, Sun Microsystems, F5, Cray, Marchex and various venture-capital firms and other companies.

For instance, there were several Google people in Raphael Hoffmann's presentation on a search engine for software code he's developing that has usability improvements over Google's new Code Search.

Later, Seth Cooper casually mentioned during his presentation that his team's work on modeling large crowds has already been licensed for use in next-generation video games.

Comments | Category: Education |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

October 30, 2006 4:13 PM

New startup mantra: Eat the ramen

Posted by Brier Dudley

Forbes is running a fun story about how companies are giving themselves odd names with missing vowels, because the domain names for normal words are too expensive to acquire.

But the story gets better when it morphs into a profile of Pluggd, a Seattle podcasting venture started by former Microsoftie Alex Castro. He shares his perspective on starting a company on the cheap, outsourcing development to Ukraine and riding the bus to work.

Castro said he's rejected top-tier job candidates who expect Microsoft-grade perks. Instead he hires employees willing to get by on small salaries while the company gets off the ground.

"A lot of these guys went to the best schools, got into Microsoft or Google, and they think they should be rewarded for their intelligence," he said. "But those who get rewarded are the ones who really take the risk. You've got to eat ramen."

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

October 30, 2006 4:04 PM

Simonyi on Russian rocket engineering

Posted by Brier Dudley

I had such a good conversation with Charles Simonyi at last week's space tourism press conference, I used it for today's column.

Highlights include his comments on the simple but robust engineering of the Soyuz TMA10 he'll ride to the International Space Station in March.

Today's column is here.

Last week's story on his space plans is here.

Charles is also going to chronicle his adventure at this Web site.

More information about his Bellevue company, Intentional Software, is here.

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

October 27, 2006 1:29 PM

Bill Gates on Charles Simonyi's space flight

Posted by Brier Dudley

Charles Simonyi said he floated his space trip plans past a few of his friends, including Martha Stewart and Bill Gates.

I asked Bill about his pal's adventure and just heard back:

Charles is a good friend. He did share his plans to fly in space with me. Charles is a real pioneer. He made a huge contribution to Microsoft not only with his amazing work but also with his vision.
There is a story of how Charles was such a good student he got to visit Russia as part of a cosmonaut contest. I don't remember the specifics but you should ask him.
There is a certain irony to Charles now being a U.S. citizen who is getting flown into space by Russia.
I am hoping this all goes well for him.

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

October 25, 2006 4:55 PM

Newspapers' slow shift to the Web

Posted by Brier Dudley

It didn't take long for most newspapers to put virtually all of their content online, but making money on the Web will take a lot longer.

Newspapers' online ad sales range from 4 percent to 14 percent of their total ad sales, according to a report issued today by Merrill Lynch media analyst Lauren Fine.

Online sales have grown at a high rate "albeit generally moderating a bit,'' she wrote.

"Even if the rapid growth continues for the next few years, we don't see online representing over 50% of newspaper ad revenues for at least a couple of decades, suggesting that industry profit could stay flat for the foreseeable future,'' she wrote.

If she's right, expect papers to start charging for online subscriptions and being more aggressive about enforcing online copyright protection.

On the bright side, at least she sees newspapers being around in 20 years.

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

October 25, 2006 4:19 PM

Amazon.com's good news, bad news day

Posted by Brier Dudley

It made investors happy, but it was a sad day for Seattle's tech community when Amazon.com yesterday said it would slow its investment in new technology.

Amazon's push into Web services, the creative things it's been trying and the smart people it's hiring have made it one of the most interesting companies in town from a tech perspective. But that didn't boost shares 12 percent.

Comments | Category: Amazon.com |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

October 25, 2006 3:07 PM

iLike makes iTunes social

Posted by Brier Dudley

iThink iLike will be a hit, if enough iTunes users discover the free social music discovery service launched today by former MSN manager Hadi Partovi and his brother, Ali.

A handful of key MSN developers left Microsoft to work on the startup, which has offices in both Seattle and San Francisco.

So far the service is for users of iTunes, but support for players including Windows Media Player and Musicmatch is coming. What launched today is a public beta version that's available here.

The service works online and on the desktop. Online, you create a profile and import a list of friends from Web mail services such as Hotmail and Gmail. You can share their musical tastes by letting iLike see your music library and what you've been playing recently. Users can see what their friends have been listening to recently, and find new friends with similar musical interests.

On the desktop, iLike adds a pane that appears alongside iTunes when you run the jukebox on a PC or a Mac. When you play a song, it suggests similar music that you can buy from iTunes, Amazon.com and other sources.

What's really appealing to cheapskate music fans like myself is that it also suggests similar music from emerging artists that you can download free from Garageband.com, another company run by Ali Partovi. When I'm playing Harvey Danger, for instance, it suggests I may be interested in free tracks such as "The Purple Song" by Mister Vertigo.

The pane also displays songs recently played by people on your friends list. You can send them text messages and comment on their musical tastes. It also has a feature for checking to see how compatible your musical tastes are with someone.

But there's more. Another tab in the pane lets you create "smart" playlists of music that's similar to the song you're currently playing. The lists can include music from your collection, free music from independent artists and music that you may yet buy from an online store.

I'd use iLike a lot if I had iTunes running all the time on my desktop, which I don't. If my friends were using iLike and sending messages that way, I'd be more likely to keep both applications up and running. As it is, I'll probably use iLike as a way to build playlists at home and learn about new music now and then.

The Partovis announced the venture in June and a month later received $2.5 million in funding. Here's a story I wrote on the June announcement, when the service had the code name iJam.

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

October 25, 2006 2:59 PM

Ellison: No Oracle Linux, but we'll support Red Hat

Posted by Brier Dudley

Larry Ellison today put to rest speculation about Oracle distributing its own version of Linux. Instead the company will offer Red Hat support to its customers.

If Oracle gets the support dollars instead of Red Hat, will Red Hat make enough money to keep improving the software?

Maybe Ellison's was saying Oracle will distribute a version of Linux eventually, after it has bled Red Hat to death.

Comments | Category: Enterprise |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

October 25, 2006 1:54 PM

Did DVD Jon crack the iPod, or add another lock?

Posted by Brier Dudley

Jon Johansen's getting headlines again today for supposedly breaking the iPod's content protection technology, similar to the way he broke DVD copy protection in 1999.

A reader from Mukilteo e-mailed me to share his thoughts on Jon's ethics:

"Doesn't it seem ironic that a hacker is now trying to make money from something he has hacked. Will he be upset the same as the companies he has hacked, when someone hacks his ideas?"

A good point, and I'm sure lots of people are waiting for that moment to come.

But I wonder if Johansen's latest venture has been mischaracterized as a hack. That's a sexy story -- that a famous hacker broke open the iPod -- but it sounds to me like he's really developed a different form of content protection that will be palatable to everyone but Apple. That's a long way from cracking the DVD copy-protection scheme, and it doesn't sound like he's breaking any locks other than the Apple lock-in.

This interview with Johansen's business partner makes it sound like the new technology mimics Apple's FairPlay content protection. It can be applied to other content, a move that can fool iPods into "thinking" they're playing FairPlay content.

The technology can also be used to play FairPlay content on non-Apple hardware, apparently by fooling the content into "thinking" it's on an iPod. But it doesn't allow unlimited copying.

It sounds awfully similar to the FairPlay workaround that RealNetworks developed two years ago in its Harmony software. It allowed content purchased from Real to be played on the iPod, and Apple had a hissy fit.

Jon's saying he's got already got a buyer of his technology. Record labels would be interested in alternative ways to sell protected content to iPod owners.

What would be really interesting is if a company like Microsoft endorsed or even licensed his technology, giving them an indirect way to bypass Apple's restrictions. If it really does pass legal muster, Microsoft could even suggest using Johansen's technology to play iTunes content on the Zune.

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

October 25, 2006 1:48 PM

Internet ID theft fears overblown, new report says

Posted by Brier Dudley

Internet ID is an "insignificant" portion of overall ID fraud on- and offline, according Javelin Strategy & Research, whose latest findings were reported here by Computerworld.

"The Internet always grabs the headlines, but it is individuals who are close to the victims, such as family and friends, that are doing most of it," firm president, James Van Dyke, said.

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

October 25, 2006 11:42 AM

Is Vista ready or not?

Posted by Brier Dudley

Mary Jo Foley tapped her Rolodex for a roundup of opinions by experts testing the software.

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

October 23, 2006 4:44 PM

100 gig Xbox rumors just rumors

Posted by Brier Dudley

Microsoft shot down speculation floated here, issuing an official statement:

The reference to a 100 GB hard drive in a recent presentation in Korea has been misleading and in fact we have no plans to bring a 100 GB hard drive to the market. We apologize for any confusion this may have caused.

I'm not sure why you'd need 100 gigabytes in an Xbox anyway, unless you wanted it to be a media server or something else. That doesn't seem worth the effort when you can buy Media Center PCs with bigger hard drives and a DVD burner for under $400.

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

October 23, 2006 2:43 PM

Update on Vista RTM timing and The Clock

Posted by Brier Dudley

That Vista release countdown clock has been reset to Nov. 8, in part because Microsoft found a catastrophic problem with one of the builds that made the Oct. 25 release impossible, according to a report today by Paul Thurrott.

That bug was fixed and a solid build was released on Friday, he wrote.

Ben Romano saw the clock in Microsoft's Building 9 a week ago. At the time it said Vista would be released to manufacturers on a date that figured out to Oct. 25, and Ben wrote this story. Early on in the Vista process, Thurrott had reported that Oct. 25 was the internal target for release, but there hadn't been any recent reported confirmation of the target.

After Ben's story came out, Jim Allchin told Mary Jo Foley that the RTM date was incorrect, but everything was still on track for big corporate buyers to get the software in November and everyone else to get it in January.

Thurrott's piece said the Oct. 25 date was still the target until that nasty bug was found. The new target is Nov. 8, but RTM could come sooner, he wrote.

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

October 23, 2006 10:06 AM

Today's column: Microsoft takes feeds mainstream

Posted by Brier Dudley

It may seem like old news to geeks, but average folks still don't know much about RSS feeds. Today's column talks about how that will change quickly now that Microsoft has added feed technology to Internet Explorer 7, the new browser it released last week.

Here are some links to sources I used in my column and to sites where you can download free software -- including IE7 -- to handle feeds:

Microsoft's Internet Explorer page is here.

Feed-handling technology has long been part of the competing Firefox and Opera browsers.

You can read feeds in all the major browsers now, but heavy users of blogs and other feed sources may still prefer to use free reader software such Bloglines, Newsgator, Rojo or Google Reader.

An angle I considered exploring in the column is how the feed technology in IE7 is PC-based. That's where the browser runs, of course, but it also downloads and stores feeds and summaries on the PC so they can be read offline.

Other feed platforms operate as Web services where you subscribe and read items online.

There's also a new category of feed-handling sites emerging that I think of as personal Web portals. These are sites such as Netvibes, where you can assemble a collection of feeds and links, customize the appearance, read your e-mail inbox and use the site as your home page.

Microsoft also has a play in this space with a free, ad-supported Web service called Live.com. A tour of Microsoft's Live offerings is available here, and the Live.com team Web log is here.

If you're interested in the views of the people quoted in the column, Scott Hanselman has a great blog geared to software developers and Jakob Nielsen shares his views at this Web site, which also has information about his conference this week in Seattle.

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

October 20, 2006 10:04 AM

Google to $530? Time for a split

Posted by Brier Dudley

Merrill Lynch released a new price target for Google today: $530 a share. Is Henry Blodget still in the building?

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

October 19, 2006 5:13 PM

Unofficial Microsoft response to iPod virus whine

Posted by Brier Dudley

I wondered how the folks in Redmond would respond to Apple's "hardy" finger pointing over the virus found in some of the new video iPods.

Doug Mahugh pointed to a snarky comeback here.

PC World - of course - went even deeper. It ran a whole story today on the reaction. The meat of the story came from the blog of Jon Poon, who checks Microsoft products for viruses before they ship.

"The fact that it's found on the portable player means that there's an issue with how the quality checks, specifically the content check was done," Poon wrote. "This also indicates that through the manufacturing cycle, the base device from which the image was duplicated to the other devices in the manufacturing run, was connected to a PC that most probably did not have , and i quote their press release, 'up to date anti-virus software which is included with most Windows computers.' "


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

October 19, 2006 3:20 PM

OQO goes Origami, decides it's making UMPCs

Posted by Brier Dudley

I had breakfast this morning with Bob Rosin, the new senior vice president of marketing at OQO, a San Francisco company that makes full-blown Windows PCs smaller than the bacon-guacamole omelets we had at the W.


OQO
The OQO PC running Windows XP Tablet Edition

Rosin was here to meet with Microsoft. He didn't give me any dirt on Redmond, but he described how OQO has warmed up to the Ultra-Mobile PC concept that Microsoft and Intel have been pushing over the past year.

OQO pioneered the category when it started developing handheld PCs back in 2000. But it never had broad success with its exquisite, expensive little machines.

After Microsoft and Intel began pushing the new Ultra-Mobile PC category -- which Microsoft code-named Origami -- OQO debated whether the put itself in that camp.

One concern was that the UMPC category targets consumers, while OQO's PCs are mostly used by professionals -- traveling sales executives, railroad inspectors, financial types in Manhattan and Homeland Security officres doing who knows what.

But OQO finally decided to embrace the category, which Rosin described as any handheld PC with a 7-inch or smaller screen running a full operating system.

Rosin said the decision has paid off. He didn't share sales figures, but said the units are starting to move in part because the UMPC effort has already stirried consumers' interest in the potential of handheld PCs.

Retailers are also warming up to the category, adding Origami models like Samsung's Q1. OQO has mostly sold through its Web site, and now it's hoping to share space on retailers' UMPC shelves, Rosin said.

Over the past six months OQO has also shuffled its leadership and received capital from new investors such as Motorola.

But the biggest reason sales are picking up has to be price. OQO devices used to cost around $2,000 but now they're down to $1,200 -- striking distance of the $1,000 Q1.

Rosin wouldn't say when OQO will introduce its next model, but I imagine they'll have one that runs at least the basic version of Windows Vista.

What would be really interesting is if OQO uses its premium industrial design talent (co-founder Jory Bell helped design Apple's Titanium Powerbook) and the upcoming UMPC chips that Intel is developing to produce an Origami device that people really want.

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

October 19, 2006 3:14 PM

Online ad play: Merrill likes aQuantive

Posted by Brier Dudley

They're not Google, but ad agencies are a good way to invest in online media, Merrill Lynch said in a research note today. Its top picks: Seattle-based aQuantive, along with ad giants Omnicom and WPP.

"Agencies are providing a hedge for investors against media fragmentation. Organic growth is high relative to the overall sector as the agencies benefit from the increasing shift to marketing services and digital,'' the report said.

Merrill analysts set a $30 price target on AQNT, saying, "We believe this is a good name to play the shift of dollars online. aQuantive is a leading independent interactive agency that is participating in the growth of online regardless of format and continues to be increasingly valued for its web development and media services as companies increase their focus online."

AQNT was down 3 cents today, at $26.42.

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

October 18, 2006 3:05 PM

Edelman won Vista, Office launch account

Posted by Brier Dudley

PR Week broke the story today that Edelman will handle the consumer launch of both products after beating out Waggener Edstrom and Weber Shandwick for the plum job.

The value of the account wasn't given, but Microsoft's going to spend hundreds of millions marketing Vista and Office 2007 in what's likely to be its biggest product launch since 1995.

Waggener Edstrom remains the "agency of record" handling overall Windows and Office PR, company president Frank Shaw noted in the story.

"The appointment of another agency is to help with the consumer launch of the product Windows Vista and Office 2007 and is supplemental to the great work that is already going on,'' he said.

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

October 18, 2006 12:27 PM

Charles Xavier's wheelchair close to reality

Posted by Brier Dudley

The latest amazing neurobionics story: Researchers are developing wheelchairs that can be controlled with brain implants, similar to the way X-Men's Professor Xavier gets around.

Massachusetts-based Cyberkinetics is working on the wheelchairs, but Seattle has a few neurobionic companies making progress. Last week Northstar Neuroscience said trials of its stroke recovery technology are ahead of schedule.

I haven't heard of anybody working on Wolverine claws yet.

Comments | Category: Biotech |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

October 18, 2006 11:49 AM

Baxter's Snaptune in a dongle

Posted by Brier Dudley

Bellevue-based Snaptune has made a deal with peripheral manufacturer ADS Tech to distribute its nifty FM radio recording software in a USB device. ADS calls the device "Instant FM Music."

The $49 dongle includes an FM tuner and the software, which records FM radio to a PC. Snaptune identifies separate tracks and provides artist information about the music.

It looks like a great way to distribute the free software, which requires users to add some sort of FM tuner to their PC.

The only shortcoming (for those seeking free music ... ) is that Snaptune won't record music at the CD quality broadcast by stations like KEXP. Instead, it records at a lower bit rate and encourages users to buy CDs or downloads of the music they like.

Snaptune was started last year by Warren Burch and Bill Baxter. Earlier, Baxter founded Bellevue embedded software company Bsquare.

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

October 18, 2006 11:41 AM

Monty Python plus Halo: Irresistable

Posted by Brier Dudley

Good Morning Silicon Valley's referral of the day:

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

October 17, 2006 1:47 PM

Could T-Mobile do this here, with Microsoft's help?

Posted by Brier Dudley

The German parent of T-Mobile USA today announced a big rollout of broadband TV services in Germany, based on Microsoft's IPTV platform.

Deutsche Telekom's T-Com unit calls the service T-Home. It includes IP telephony, high-def TV, Tivo-like recording and on-demand movies. The Web site is here, but it's in German.

"T-Com has transformed the simple telephone line into a high-performance multimedia platform in no time at all. We are now opening up the modern world of communication, information and entertainment for our customers," DT board member Walter Raizner said in the release.

It's another flagship deal for Microsoft's IPTV service, but what's really intriguing is the potential of Bellevue-based T-Mobile USA to offer something similar in the U.S.

Wireless spectrum can't deliver as much data as T-Com, but video services are part of T-Mobile's next-generation network plans. Household video and broadband would also help the company pay for the $4 billion worth of spectrum it bought in the U.S.

T-Mobile International started down this path a year ago in Europe, with wireless broadband and video, according to this older post by Glenn Fleishman.

More recently, Om Malik has been talking about TV over WiMax.

Will T-Mobile transform the simple wireless telephone account into a high-performance multimedia platform?

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

October 17, 2006 1:42 PM

Microsoft reveals Windows Vista RTM date

Posted by Brier Dudley

To Ben Romano, at least, who spotted the RTM countdown clock while he was in Microsoft's Building 9 yesterday. Here's his story, which is getting suprisingly little attention.

What's most amazing is that a parade of reporters went through the building Monday and one got the story.

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

October 17, 2006 1:02 PM

VMware's smoking, Microsoft opens up

Posted by Brier Dudley

Third quarter sales for EMC's hot virtualization subsidiary were up 86 percent to $188.5 million, its biggest surge in more than a year.

EMC's overall sales were up 19 percent, according to today's earnings release.

The quasi-local player in VMware's space is XenSource.

Both companies are based in Palo Alto, Calif., but XenSource is allied with Microsoft. It also recently opened an R&D office in Redmond that's led by former 'softies Frank Artale and Gordon Mangione.

Both companies also have open souce credentials, so it's no wonder Microsoft is opening up its own virtualization technology, although today's announcement in Brussels may be aimed more at European regulators than customers and developers.

Comments | Category: Enterprise |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

October 17, 2006 12:31 PM

The Wii and Wozniak broadcast

Posted by Brier Dudley

Speaking of the Wii, I'll be talking about the console tonight on KUOW 94.9 during John Moe's "The Works" show.

Other segments feature Apple Computer co-founder Steve Wozniak and podcaster Rob Greenlee of Melodeo.

Comments | Category: Apple , Nintendo |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

October 17, 2006 11:19 AM

Wii vs. Xbox 360 pricing

Posted by Brier Dudley

I had an interesting e-mail exchange today with a vice president of Edelman, the PR firm representing Microsoft's Xbox business.

Ken Birge took exception to the way I compared the price of Nintendo's Wii console with the Xbox 360 in my column last week.

I said the $250 cost of a Wii -- which includes a game and wireless services -- is about half that of a comparable 360 setup.

Ken noted that the Xbox 360 core system -- the entry-level model without a hard drive -- is $299. He also pointed out that the standard 360 -- which costs $399 -- has more features than the Wii.

"Even if trying to say the Wii is equivalent to the base Xbox 360 at $399.00, this statement would not be fair, especially considering the additional hard drive and lack of high definition game play, etc.'' he wrote.

I agree that the 360 is a relatively good deal, especially the core system. But I think buyers will end up spending around $500 to get started with the Xbox, after the cost of things like online service and a game are added up.

As a holiday gift, you'd only have to buy a $250 Wii since everything you need is in the box. A $299 Xbox console would be a nice gift as well, but the recipient would have to buy a game before he or she could play, and other stuff to play online.

In my response to Ken, I said I came at the Wii from the perspective of someone who might buy one system or another, wondering how much it would cost them to really get started.

Here's the paragraph in question in the column:

"But the biggest selling point may be the price. It costs $250, with the sports game included, and free online services. That's about half the cost of an equivalent Xbox 360 or PS3 setup."

Here's how I explained my thinking to Ken:

The core system is closer in price, but I think the $399 standard 360 is a better comparison. That model is presented to consumers as the standard Xbox, not a stripped-down one. It also comes with a wireless controller, like the Wii, whereas the core Xbox only comes with a wired controller.

The Wii also has built-in Wi-Fi for connecting to a home network. That's a $100 extra on either Xbox.

A standard Xbox 360 console is $399. Add a game for $50, a year of online service for $50 to $60 and a $100 Wifi adapter = more than 2x the cost of a Wii.

A comparable core Xbox 360 setup would be: A $299 console plus a $50 game, $50 to $60 Live subscription, $100 Wi-Fi adapter and $50 wireless controller = still more than 2x the cost of a Wii.

That's just counting one year of Live service. If you give the console a three-year life, then the services cost would be $150 to $180 vs. zero on the Wii.

But there are other things to consider. If you have invested in a high-def television, you might want a console that makes the most of its quality. The Wii doesn't have high-def output like the 360.

Unlike the Wii, the 360 can also play DVD movies and stream content from a Windows PC over a home network. Those things will make the 360 a better value to some people.

I'll bet the Wii will pressure Microsoft to start bundling a game with the core 360. A game may not be in the box, but Microsoft could make deals behind the scenes with retailers so that sub-$300 Xbox bundles appear on shelves when the Wii goes on sale next month.

Ken didn't bring this up, but the real injustice I did to Xbox was lumping its price together with that of Sony's $500 to $600 PS3.

It's even harder to compare the 360 and PS3 prices, since the PS3 has a next-generation optical drive and it's bundle pricing isn't clear yet. Sony is also selling the PS3 at lower prices in Japan.

Clearly we'll be talking more about console prices as the Wii and PS3 go on sale next month.

I'd also like to hear what others think about the value of the various systems.

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

October 17, 2006 11:08 AM

Google's screwy today

Posted by Brier Dudley

Did Google adjust a setting or twist a dial on its security meter? We're having some trouble with the search via toolbars, but maybe the problem is limited to searches from our network here at the paper.

Searches via the Google toolbar in both Explorer and Firefox today are returning an error message that routes them through a security checkpoint with this message:

We're sorry...
... but your query looks similar to automated requests from a computer virus or spyware application. To protect our users, we can't process your request right now.
We'll restore your access as quickly as possible, so try again soon. In the meantime, if you suspect that your computer or network has been infected, you might want to run a virus checker or spyware remover to make sure that your systems are free of viruses and other spurious software.
We apologize for the inconvenience, and hope we'll see you again on Google.

I was suspicious because the first time this happened I was searching for information about Windows Vista, but it even happens if I search for Google.

Time to query Mountain View, by e-mail.

Meanwhile, I'm glad it's so easy to switch search engines in the Internet Explorer 7 toolbar.

UPDATE: Apparently it's a problem here at the Times, not with Google. I'll share more when I hear what happened; there might be an interesting lesson for enterprise Google users.

FINAL UPDATE: Two days later it was mysteriously fixed. Our tech folks don't know why, and I still haven't heard back from Google PR.

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

October 16, 2006 12:26 PM

Costco.com selling Zunes now

Posted by Brier Dudley

For $239.99 -- $10 below the list price.

That's close to the Zune discount Microsoft is giving employees at the company store. An anonymous commenter at Mini-Microsoft grumbled that they're getting only 10 percent off, meaning employees will pay $225.

Costco's taking orders but it's not delivering them early though -- it says they'll ship Nov. 14.

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

October 16, 2006 10:39 AM

Seattle's YouTube

Posted by Brier Dudley

Today's column looks at Atom Films, the YouTube of its day, and explores why it wasn't sold to Google for $1.65 billion. One factor is timing; another may be Seattle culture.

I'd love to what people are thinking about this topic.

It's apparently YouTube analysis week. The New York Times' Richard Siklos talked to the president of Time Warner about the "loopy" deal, Steven Levy offered his take in Newsweek and Elinor Mills offers her take at Cnet.

I feel for The New Yorker and Forbes - they both have big YouTube stories that were written before the sale.

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

October 13, 2006 3:03 PM

WiMax gadget report

Posted by Brier Dudley

Check out the Flyvo and other oddities that Tricia Duryee saw WiMax World in Boston.

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

October 13, 2006 1:39 PM

SynapseLife launch report

Posted by Brier Dudley

Mark Michael reports that 2,500 people have signed up to use SynapseLife since it launched Oct. 5.

SynapseLife is Web application for creating personal homepages where you can manage contacts, email, tags, favorites and RSS feeds, among other things.

Here's a profile of the company that we published in May.

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

October 13, 2006 1:16 PM

Say howdy to the Vista Southern Edition

Posted by Brier Dudley

Keeping track of the different versions of Windows was hard enough, with all the different flavors of Vista and antitrust variations of XP.

Now Microsoft blogger Charlie Owen has let slip technical details of Windows Vista Southern Edition RC1, an update of the old Winders XP chestnut.

Owens said Winders Vista has exclusive programs:

Tiperiter.........a word processing program
Colerin' Book.................a graphics program
Cyferin' Mersheen...........calculator
Outhouse Paper................notepad
Inner-net....................Internet Explorer 7.0
Pitchers .......................a graphics viewer
Bubba Tube....................Windows Media Center

He said customers inconvenienced by the new product may return it for a copy of "Windows Vista Home Premium Ultimate Redneck Edition (codenamed 'Hee Haw')."

Microsoft hasn't said exactly when they'll ship -- it still has to git-r-done.

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

October 11, 2006 3:22 PM

Bothell's Diagnostic Ultrasound changes name

Posted by Brier Dudley

It's now called Verathon.

The name change also reflects a new focus at the 22-year-old medical instrument maker, whose flagship product is the BladderScan device for bladder volume measurement.

In January it expanded into the anesthesiology market with the acquisition of Saturn Biomedical Systems, a Vancouver, B.C., manufacturer of the GlideScope video laryngoscope ("for fast, easy intubations.")

Verathon is a combination of veritas and marathon, intended to imply truth and endurance.


Comments | Category: Biotech |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

October 11, 2006 12:18 PM

The $12,000 iPod

Posted by Brier Dudley

Aside from the goofy name, the Sooloos looks perfect if you have 12 grand to spend on a digital music system.

I'll bet clever folks could build a similar system for under $2,000 using Windows Vista, which has a slick media player and supports touch-screen controls.

A 17-inch iMac is pretty close today for just $1,500, but its internal drive capacity maxes out at 500 gigabytes.

Can PC-based systems ever have the great industrial design of the Sooloos? Maybe, maybe not. But the PC's evolving interface and falling storage costs really should make the Sooloos-type experience accessible to the mainstream.

I want one of these, for $1,200.

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

October 11, 2006 11:47 AM

Infosys expects $3 billion in sales next year

Posted by Brier Dudley

Stocks of Indian IT companies took a huge hit in May, but Infosys seems to be doing fine.

Q2 earnings at the Bangalore-based services giant were up 42 percent over the same period last year, to $746 million, according to its quarterly report out today.

Earnings per share were 36 cents, up from 25 cents a year ago.

Next year's growth was forecasted to be around 41 percent, surpassing $3 billion in sales.

Infosys also increased its workforce by 7,741, growing to 66,150 -- nearly as big as Microsoft.

One project that boosted the quarter: Helping a big but unnamed U.S. cable company develop quadruple-play services -- cable, telephony, wireless and broadband.

Here's a look at how INFY has pulled back from the May downturn.

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

October 11, 2006 11:13 AM

Web pages may start talking to your phone

Posted by Brier Dudley

If you have a phone and PC with Bluetooth wireless capability, that is.

The Bluetooth consortium introduced its new "Transsend" Web-to-device technology today at the Digital Life show in New York.

Web pages can add a Bluetooth icon that visitors can click to transfer a chunk of data -- a restaurant's site could beam over a map to a customer's phone, for instance.

The industry group promoting Bluetooth describes Transsend as a "client-server application that allows Internet content such as maps, addresses, phone numbers and other text and images to be wirelessly transferred from a Bluetooth-enabled PC to another mobile Bluetooth device such as a phone or PDA."

Bluetooth seems like a great way to get rid of the jumble of different wires needed to connect PCs and devices but it has never become universal. I wonder if it's too expensive or complicated for hardware manufacturers.

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

October 11, 2006 10:41 AM

Yahoo's troubles sound familiar

Posted by Brier Dudley

Great New York Times piece on Yahoo! today, but I think I've read that story before.

Here's the template: Start with anecdote about glamorous new tech company outmaneuvering yesterday's Wall Street darling, then list the symptoms of age: the older company has become too big and bureacratic; its growth rate has slowed, its stock has fallen, recruiting is tougher and some notable employees are jumping ship.

I'm not trying to rip on the reporter -- I've written similar stories about Microsoft for years.

Stay tuned, Google will eventually start getting the treatment, probably by 2008.

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

October 10, 2006 11:32 AM

What YouTube means for Google's earnings, maybe

Posted by Brier Dudley

Google bears and bulls are poring over the tea leaves, in the comments section of Henry Blodget's blog.

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

October 9, 2006 5:00 PM

Former Pacific Edge boss to lead Sampa

Posted by Brier Dudley

Rob Dickerson was named president and chief executive of Sampa, a year-old Redmond startup that offers Web site creation and hosting services.

From 2001 to 2005, Dickerson was president and chief executive of Bellevue's Pacific Edge software, a project portfolio management company that was sold last week to San Mateo, Calif.-based Serena Software.

Earlier, Dickerson was a senior vice president at Rational Software. Sampa simultaneously hired another Rational veteran, Daniel Kerns, as vice president of engineering. Kerns previously founded Pure Networks.

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

October 9, 2006 2:16 PM

Human resources issues at Microsoft, Google

Posted by Brier Dudley

Once again, Google is following the Microsoft playbook, and I'm not talking about YouTube.

The search giant is having to revise its tedious recruiting and HR processes to compete with more nimble competitors, according to this intriguing story at Computerworld.

It's especially interesting after reading Ben Romano's great story today on Microsoft's HR boss Lisa Brummel and the changes she's been making.

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

October 9, 2006 9:42 AM

Today's column on Nintendo's Wii

Posted by Brier Dudley

Last week was a rough one.

One day I was at Microsoft fiddling with the Zune, the next I was at Nintendo playing the Wii. Both are the same price -- $250 -- which seems to be the entry point for a lot of today's cool gadgets.

In addition to the column on the Wii, we're running an online slideshow with more images of the device and game screen shots.

I've been playing video games for about 30 years, starting with my neighbor's Pong. It got serious when a friend introduced me to the Atari, which gave us arcade-quality games without having to pay 25 cents a turn.

That thrifty streak probably colored my views on the Wii; I think it's a little more fun to play video games when I know they're a good deal.

The Wii comes with a collection of sports games that are simple, a little silly and nowhere near the visual quality of Xbox 360 titles. But you can play them over and over, without having to shell out another $60 for your first game.

Eventually you'll buy more games, of course. But the free stuff in the Wii box sweetens the deal and warms your feelings about the device. Microsoft is doing the same thing by preloading the Zune with a collection of music and videos.

Here's how the column starts:

I've been watching the container ships in Elliott Bay lately.
I'm wondering which ones are bringing Nintendo's new Wii game console to America. Millions of Wiis are coming, all through Seattle, in advance of its Nov. 19 launch. After playing with the Wii last week at Nintendo's Redmond office, I may swim out and see if any spares are floating around.
I try to be skeptical during product demonstrations, but this one left me convinced the Wii (pronounced "we") will be a huge hit and the hottest toy this holiday season....

Comments | Category: Gadgets & products , Games & entertainment |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

October 6, 2006 10:04 AM

GoogleTube possible, for $1.6 billion

Posted by Brier Dudley

Once again the bidding began in the New York Post, which ran a story Sept. 22 about YouTube being on the market for no less than $1.5 billion. Now rumors are circulating that Google is offering $1.6 billion.

Will YouTube be the last huge cash withdrawal from the Web 2.0 bubble?

Why can't Google get its video service to fly by itself?

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

October 5, 2006 2:56 PM

iTunes and Starbucks: Just a snuggle, or more?

Posted by Brier Dudley

When I first heard that Starbucks was working with Apple on an iTunes deal, I wondered if they would put Apple kiosks in their stores.

But apparently it's just another music distribution deal -- Starbucks-produced music will get promoted and sold on the iTunes store. Starbucks has been in the music business since 1999, and this is another channel for their distribution. Here's the press release and some background.

It seems kind of odd to encourage people to buy Starbucks promoted music online, instead of buying CDs at a coffee shop. I wonder if Starbucks knows how frustrated more established record labels are with Apple, a situation that has opened the door for Microsoft's Urge and Zune music services.

Starbucks kiosks were ahead of their time. By comparison, selling music on iTunes is kind of ho-hum.

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

October 5, 2006 2:14 PM

Into the Zune Zone for an update

Posted by Brier Dudley

After I voiced some doubt about whether the sharing feature of Microsoft's Zune player really works, I was invited over to the Bear Creek offices for another demo.

Sure enough, I was able to send songs back and forth between two devices. It was probably the ideal setting to share songs wirelessly though -- I was sharing music with a Zune product manager, Matt Jublier, in a conference room with the devices about a foot apart. I'm still curious to see how they work in the real world, especially places with a lot of wireless activity.


BRIER DUDLEY
Sharing music works in a demo at the Zune team's offices in Redmond.

You're only supposed to be able to play shared songs you receive three times, after which you have to buy your own copy. I was able to start a shared song more than three times, but didn't play it all the way through.

Microsoft is still doing builds of the Zune's embedded software, even though the device is already being manufactured and goes on sale next month. It seems down to the wire, but Jublier said the devices will get software updates automatically when people connect them to a PC connected to the Internet.

Among the things being locked down are the default settings. One decision that was made: The devices will be ready to share music wirelessly out of the box, but they'll also have a privacy feature turned on so that nearby users can't see detailed information about what's playing on your device. That setting can be changed if you want others to see what you've got playing, however.

Also interesting was the incidental tour of the Zune facility. The 180-person team was given the leeway to choose the look and feel of their offices, in a leased building across Highway 520 from the Redmond Target.

The team just moved into the newly remodeled first floor of the building this week. It has a large central atrium that serves as a cafeteria and meeting space. Furniture and carpets are modern, funky and colorful, and at lunchtime the tables all had clusters of people working together on laptops.

There are still individual, Microsoft-style offices, but they have sliding barn-style doors with silver hardware, frosted glass and espresso stained wood. Coming Zune: An in-house gym.

Here's an earlier column on the Zune, and Ben Romano's story on the September unveiling.

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

October 5, 2006 2:07 PM

Has YouTube become SpamTube?

Posted by Brier Dudley

I'm getting bombarded today by e-mail invitations to view clips posted on YouTube, mostly from political advocacy groups. My editor is getting the same thing.

My account was set to allow e-mail notifications when friends post new videos, but I have zero friends listed in my YouTube profile.

Have people figured out how to spam YouTube members, tapping into the e-mail directory somehow?

Maybe this has been going on for some time and it's just reaching me, but it's got me thinking about deleting my account.

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

October 5, 2006 1:49 PM

Windows Media Player 11 beta 2 sounds cool, but ...

Posted by Brier Dudley

The new version has improved features for sharing digital content in the home, but I wouldn't touch the software if I was using Media Center to record TV shows.

Actually everyone should read the release notes before installing this one, or maybe just wait until the final version that will presumably be done when Vista's ready next month.

Apparently there's a glitch that makes some recorded TV shows vanish after three days, degrading the TiVo-like experience of Media Center.

I wonder if there's some link to the copy prevention software used in the Zune media player, which also places a three-day fuse on licensed content. The Zune lets you share purchased songs with friends, but they disappear from friends' Zunes after three days, unless the friends buy their own copy.

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

October 5, 2006 1:43 PM

Star Trek garage sale

Posted by Brier Dudley

I wonder if the tech industry's productivity declined today as the grand Star Trek auction began in New York.

No doubt some of the online bids came from Seattle area Trechies.

The History Channel has a live Webcast of the auction here.

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

October 4, 2006 4:48 PM

Will we all have these soon?

Posted by Brier Dudley

I could see external RAID storage devices like the new one from Western Digital becoming an essential item in the digital home. Along with a fire extinguisher, first aid kit and a flashlight, we'll have a terabyte of storage stashed in a safe place.

RAID can let you run mirrored hard drives, so the data is safe if one of the drives crashes. But they're still delicate mechanical devices that will eventually fail. Amazon Chief Technology Officer Werner Vogel had this happen, and used the experience to pitch his company's S3 online storage service in a blog post today.

S3 may be safer, but the fees add up, especially if you move a lot of stuff back and forth. Pretty soon you could buy a couple of these instead.

Comments | Category: Amazon.com , Digital media , Gadgets & products |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

October 2, 2006 10:10 AM

Early days for online video

Posted by Brier Dudley

Kim Peterson has a nice story today on the nascent online video business.

All the big players are moving into online video, but it seems like nobody's figured out a way to make money beyond selling ads around the clips.

I thought Google had a great concept for a video store that would help content producers charge for their work. Larry Page made a big splash when he announced the venture at the Consumer Electronics Show CES last January, but it hasn't worked out as promised and today Google Video seems like a flop.

YouTube is the darling, but that could change soon. A Newsweek story raises questions about the legality of some of YouTube's content; it suggests that content owners will sue if YouTube is purchased by a deep-pocket company such as Microsoft or Yahoo!

Kim's story raises similar concerns. It quoted a Seattle band member who was concerned that someone posted a clip of the band playing a song it hadn't released publicly yet.

"It definitely raises issues about creatively letting the cat out of the bag," he said.

I think YouTube's going to fade as online video matures and people get more savvy about the value of their content. Instead of giving up their content rights in return for the exposure of YouTube's platform, people are going to want more control and more money for their work. Maybe then Google or someone else offering a video marketplace -- instead of a free for all -- will move ahead.

Comments | Category: Digital media , E-commerce , Google , Microsoft , Web , Yahoo! |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

October 2, 2006 9:36 AM

Multi-core Monday, or "The Return of the PC"?

Posted by Brier Dudley

Today's column talks about the potential of new processors to get software developers more interested in writing for the PC again.

I've been trying to figure out what sort of activity we'll see around here if the PC industry revs up again. That may happen when Windows Vista is widely available in January. I think enthusiasts are starting to get excited about Vista, but what's really got them going now are the new multi-core processors from Intel and AMD.

Thanks to the competition between the chip comanies, those processors are rolling quickly into the market. They're also being priced at levels that make them accessible to mainstream PC buyers, and not just to the business and extreme gamer crowd that will pay $3,000 for a high-end machine.

Information Week ran a good story today on the topic that mentions the design details of the new dual- and quad-core processors. There's a good debate over the design of multi-core processors; some are pieced together and not truly multiple cores on a single silicon die.

Regardless of how they're engineered, I think the multi-core processors have people excited about PCs again. That may be just the results of the PC industry cabal's advance marketing of the Vista wave, but it could create some interesting new opportunities for software developers.

Here's the top of the column:

Maybe I'm stuck in the 1990s, but I think the PC is coming back after a long, dull spell.
Not long ago, it was thought that we'd do most of our computing on the Internet, connecting up through Web services and mobile devices. That's where most consumer-technology startups are focused nowadays. They're pursuing opportunities created by advances in wireless and broadband service that enable people to connect in interesting new ways.
It's not surprising that these Web 2.0 ventures are attractive. Pipes to the home have gotten fatter, and today's PCs can barely handle the videos, photos and other information we're sharing and downloading nowadays.
But that's changing, fast ...

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

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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.