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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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November 30, 2006 5:09 PM

Bill Gates for president? Dilbert votes yes

Posted by Brier Dudley

The campaign began Nov. 19 with a blog post by Scott Adams, the cartoonist who pens Dilbert, who seems serious about Bill running for president.

That was followed up Tuesday when someone created the semi-serious Web site, Both efforts then appeared on Slashdot today for some early polling.

I hate to break it to them, but I asked Gates in June if he'll ever run for office and he said no.

"Politics? I'll never run, I can't see any circumstance where I would ever run for any office. It just wouldn't suit what I'm good at,'' he said.

Adams initially mentioned it sort of in passing, after riffing on atheists and politics. Then he followed it up today with a longer pitch for Bill.

From Adams' Nov. 19 post:

I think that in an election cycle or two you will see an atheist business leader emerge as a legitimate candidate for president. And his name will be Bill Gates.
By then, Bill Gates will have done so much good for the world through his charitable works that combined with his business success he'll appear more qualified than any other candidate. His early bachelor life and some of his business practices will come back to haunt him if he runs, but he can still win with this simple slogan: "Who would you rather have on your side?" He'll confess to all of his past imperfections and say that presidents are poor choices for role models. He'll advise you to look to your parents for role models while you let him run the country.
I doubt Bill Gates is considering a run for president right now, largely because it's so hard to make a difference from that job. His charities will have more impact. But I think he'll someday realize that the world needs a rational thinker in the top spot and no one else can win.
At least you'd know he wouldn't be in it for the money or to speed up the Rapture. He has my vote.

From today's followup:

Forget about whatever Bill Gates did in the past that made you curl up with your free copy of Linux and cry. In his first week in office he'd probably link Microsoft Virtual Earth to the government's spy satellites so you can look for Osama yourself. I've always felt that terrorism is a technology problem disguised as a political problem. Bill Gates can fix that.
For my president I want a mixture of Mother Teresa, Carl Sagan, Warren Buffet, and Darth Vader. Bill has all of their good stuff. His foundation will save more lives than Mother Teresa ever did. He's got the Carl Sagan intelligence and rational mind. He's a hugely successful businessman. And I have every reason to believe he can choke people just by concentrating in their general direction. You can't tell me that wouldn't be useful at a summit.
I've always felt that you should pick a president the same way you'd pick an attorney to help you out of a dangerous legal problem. Do you want the attorney who dresses nicely and belongs to your church? Or do you want the attorney who can rip out your opponent's heart and put it on the hibachi before he dies? Maybe it's just me, but I want an attorney who is part demon. And I want a president who isn't afraid to make rational decisions.
Now in the interest of balance, I have to acknowledge there would be some downside to the Bill Gates presidency. For example, he doesn't have a voice you'd want to hear every night on the news. But I'd be happy if he just stayed home and ran things by e-mail. I really don't need to hear him yammering to know he's working. If I have questions, I'll check his blog.
Second -- and this is the most disturbing part -- I noticed on the web site that Bill is starting to look like Mr. Burns from The Simpsons. (See his picture with Queen Elizabeth.) That's only going to get worse. But I'm willing to overlook it.
Bill Gates for president -- you could say you have a better idea, but you'd be lying. Are there any pollsters out there who want to see how he stacks up against the field?

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November 30, 2006 1:38 PM

UW researchers raise Nike-iPod security concerns

Posted by Brier Dudley

A team of University of Washington computer science researchers is getting ink for its analysis of the privacy risks of the new Nike+iPod Sport Kit.

Mary Levin, UW News and Information
From left: UW researchers Yoshi Kohno, Carl Hartung and Scott Saponas.

The researchers cobbled together gadgets that could track the whereabouts of people using the system, which wirelessly syncs a sensor in jogging shoes with a user's iPod.

Scott Saponas, an avid jogger pursuing his doctorate in computer science, bought the system and started wondering about its potential security risks.

"It is easy for someone to use the Nike+iPod as a tracking device," he said in a UW news release. "It's an example of how new gadgetry can erode our personal privacy."

In a paper posted online today, the researchers suggested people who use the Nike-iPod system turn it off when they're not exercising so it won't keep sending signals.

Saponas worked with grad students Jonathan Lester and Carl Hartung and assistant professor of computer science Yoshi Kohno.

"There's a bigger issue here," Kohno said in the release. "When people buy a toaster, they know it's probably not going to blow up when they plug it in. But when they buy a consumer device like the Nike+iPod kit, they have no idea whether the device might enable someone to violate their privacy. We need to change that."

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November 30, 2006 1:07 PM

Store 450 high-def movies on a Vista-AMD PC

Posted by Brier Dudley

AMD today released its new Quad FX processors designed to make the most of Windows Vista Ultimate.

For the bare processors, prices start at $599.

The processors include 12 SATA controllers that enable 9 terabytes of storage on a PC, which AMD noted is room for more than 450 high-def movies. One of these setups can also drive up to eight monitors at once in case you want to operate a high-def movie arcade.

Now that's a Vista Premium Ready system.

(This was updated after some instructive comments from Terrance; I should also mention that technical reviewers seem lukewarm to the Quad FX)

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November 30, 2006 12:49 PM

Locals catching the Vista wave

Posted by Brier Dudley

Local software companies hoping to ride the wave include:

-- Seattle's Attachmate, which today announced Reflection 2007, a new terminal emulation product designed for Visa and Office 2007. Attachmate is taking advantage of Microsoft's offer of royalty-free licenses to use the Office "Ribbon" interface in Reflection.

-- Bellevue's Laplink, which makes software for transferring your digital stuff to a new PC. Its PCmover product was the top selling migration utility in the U.S. last month, claiming 39 percent of sales by unit.

"As we move into the holiday season and the launch of Vista early next year, we expect that PCmover will take an even more commanding sales lead,'' Laplink chief executive, Thomas Koll, said in a release.

Who else should I add to the list?

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November 29, 2006 11:14 AM

The RSS Couch

Posted by Brier Dudley

Cecile Andrews' blog tipped me off to the existence of an RSS couch at Dave Winer's new home in Berkeley: "It's the same orange as the symbol for RSS, one of a multitude of Web technologies Dave has created and/or helped popularize," she wrote.

Now all he needs is an iLoo.

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November 29, 2006 10:59 AM

Zune claims 2nd place in MP3 player business

Posted by Brier Dudley

Most entrepreneurs would be pretty happy if they entered a crowded market and claimed second place and 13 percent of sales within a week.

That's how Microsoft fared with its Zune media player, according to a report from NPD Group that should be more useful than all the speculation about's sales rank.

Based on data gathered from multiple outlets for the week ending Nov. 18, NPD concluded that the Zune took a 9 percent share by units and 13 percent share by dollars of the U.S. portable digital media player market.

That put Microsoft in second place behind Apple and ahead of Sandisk, a Flash player manufacturer that's partnering with RealNetworks. During the same week, Apple took 63 percent of the market by units and 72.5 percent by dollars.

"Microsoft attracted early adopters in a successful launch week for Zune, eking out SanDisk as the No. 2 digital audio player vendor," Ross Rubin, NPD director of industry analysis, said in a release. "This was especially impressive given the Zune's single capacity configuration and relatively high price point. However, Apple still retained dominant share during the week and Zune was still outsold by PlaysForSure-compatible players in aggregate."

I wouldn't read too much into the first week of sales, though, since they were skewed by the launch hype.

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November 28, 2006 2:23 PM

Former Seattle tech standout failed to pay child support

Posted by Brier Dudley

Craig McCallum, a former venture capitalist and executive at Seattle area Internet companies, plead guilty on Monday to shorting his children and ex-wife of more than $129,000 in child and spousal support.

He'll be sentenced in February by a federal judge in St. Louis, where he was recently working for network security company VistaWiz, according to his personal Web page.

In 1995 McCallum was one of several "instant millionaires" in a Seattle Times story about the sale Spry, a local Internet company sold to CompuServe for $40 million cash and $60 million in stock.

McCallum was Spry's chief financial officer. A year later he was promoted from vice president to general manager of CompuServe's Internet business division. He also worked at Starwave and as managing director of Encompass Ventures.

By late 2004, he was making $23,333 a month and was ordered to pay $2,435 a month in child support plus health care costs, half of college costs and $5,500 in monthly maintenance, according to a St. Louis Post Dispatch story on his case.

"McCallum stopped paying, and Missouri started garnisheeing his wages," the story said. "He owed $129,961.31 in June, and his debt was growing at a rate of $7,385 per month, documents show. But what the state could retrieve fell to as little as $32 per month because McCallum was working for much lower pay as a part-time golf club bartender in Taos, N.M."

McCallum, a former Ernst & Young accountant, moved money to avoid paying his ex, according to the Post-Dispatch story:

In 2005, a St. Louis County Circuit Court found that McCallum was denying his former wife money by liquidating or concealing assets, including taking thousands of dollars from his children's bank accounts, court documents show.
A relative bought McCallum a Harley-Davidson motorcycle and a Jeep and placed them in his father's name, documents say. McCallum admitted forging his eldest child's name on a health insurance check and depositing it in his girlfriend's account, documents show.
McCallum, 48, agreed Monday to pay the full amount he owes. He also agreed to get and keep a job "at a level commensurate with his education and experience.
Joel Schwartz, the lawyer representing McCallum, said his client suffered from effects of a computer industry downturn and had trouble getting a job paying as much as he once made.

Schwartz told me that McCallum, who now lives in Everett, faces a maximum sentence of six months in prison.

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November 28, 2006 2:00 PM

4-H bloggers nail Capitol Christmas tree story

Posted by Brier Dudley

For the full story on the 65-foot Pacific Silver Fir that made its way from the Olympic National Forest to Washington, D.C., check out the impressive blog and videos produced by the Jefferson County 4-H club.

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November 28, 2006 1:38 PM

Ballmer's angry call from Novell CEO ...

Posted by Brier Dudley

About the fateful Linux comments Steve Ballmer made in Seattle two weeks ago. Novell boss Ron Hovsepian told Computerworld he called Ballmer to ask what was up.

He didn't say much about the conversation but noted that Ballmer and his lieutenants were "very understanding. At the executive level, they've been operating very genuinely -- I have to give them full credit for that."

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November 28, 2006 1:06 PM

Winer: When Google crashes, so does Web 2.0

Posted by Brier Dudley

Dave Winer's getting tons of attention for a mini-essay suggesting that Google's stock will signal the fate of the current Web 2.0 bubble -- when the stock crashes, the bubble will deflate.

His comments were spurred by Google's decline yesterday, which in turn came after a Barron's story that said the stock was overvalued.

Winer said Web 2.0 "is nothing more than an aftermarket for Google. Startups slicing little bits of Google's P/E ratio, acting as sales reps for Google ads, and getting great multiples for the revenue they generate by fostering the creation of new UGC [user-generated content] to place ads on. When Google crashes, that's the end of that, no more wave to ride, no more aftermarket, Bubble Burst 2.0. And the flip of this is also true -- as long as Google's stock stays up, no bubble burst."

Web 2.0 companies may very well be riding Google's bumper.

Winer hit on a really interesting relationship, but I wonder if it's more simple. Does Google's stock reflect investors' streak of enthusiasm for online advertising and Internet stocks in general? If that streak ends and the stock falls, any company in the Web 2.0 category will suffer regardless of its relationship to Google.

In the meantime, Google's investors are still beaming.

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November 28, 2006 12:39 PM

iConclude lands high-profile Wipro contract

Posted by Brier Dudley

In a big win for Bellevue startup iConclude, Indian outsourcing giant Wipro will use iConclude's automated data center management technology.

Wipro will use the software at its "global command center," which runs data centers for clients such as GE from Wipro offices in Bangalore, India; Santa Clara, Calif.; and London.

I wonder how visible iConclude's technology will be at the center. A stream of visitors -- including representatives of major companies around the world -- see the center when touring Wipro's Bangalore campus.

Veterans of Mercury Interactive started iConclude a little more than a year ago and have since landed $12 million in venture funding from Madrona, Greylock Partners and Shasta Ventures.

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November 27, 2006 5:12 PM

A standard holiday for one Microsoftie

Posted by Brier Dudley

If the turkey doesn't put you to sleep, how about a few bound copies of the ECMA Office Open XML specifications?

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November 27, 2006 5:06 PM

Yahoo CIO finally home from Wenatchee

Posted by Brier Dudley

Talk about getting stuck in holiday traffic. Yahoo!'s CIO just returned from trip to Wenatchee to cut the ribbon on his company's new datacenter -- on Nov. 16.

Lars Rabbe wrote up his experiences at the official Yahoo! blog.

"Now when you send an e-mail using Yahoo! Mail, there's a chance it could visit the Pacific Northwest before reaching its final destination,'' he wrote.

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November 20, 2006 11:56 AM

Happy Thanksgiving, see you next week

Posted by Brier Dudley

I'll be mostly offline until Monday. If you have an urgent tech tip, try my editor, Mark Watanabe at

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November 20, 2006 11:45 AM

Thoughtful feedback on Vista preview

Posted by Brier Dudley

Today's Vista preview filled the inbox as much as Saturday's Zune review.

One reader thanked me for not being one of those reporters who "fall all over themselves to gush undeserved plattitudes about the Mob Squad from Redmond."

Another is concerned about Microsoft's direction: "You have to think when computers run the world and nearly all aspects of our lives, and the operative word at the company that makes the software on 9 out of 10 of these boxes uses vocabulary from 50 years ago. Cool."

Yet he said he'll wait a bit before taking the Vista plunge:

"My guess is the great majority of people will upgrade only as part of a
new PC purchase. The migration will, of course, take place. The real
question is at what pace. Personally -- and I use PCs extensively for a
living in the tech world -- I'll wait for others to lead the way."

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November 20, 2006 11:37 AM

Zune review feedback: half for, half against

Posted by Brier Dudley

Response to the Zune review was 50-50 -- half the people who e-mailed seemed to like the review and offered thanks or asked for more info. The other half tore into me for shilling for Microsoft, which is odd because I didn't think the review was all that glowing. Here's a sample:

"You're the first journalist who hasn't written what an absolute hunk of crap the Zune is. You even got a kid to say how cool brown is. How many cookies did you have to bribe him with? Oh yeah, and there are those unnamed Apple store employees. Now THAT is compelling. There's only one answer: you must be on Microsoft's payroll. You're close enough to drive in to get your paycheck!"

"Nice article, especially the comparison to the Camaro. I and many of my
generation feel that the '68 Camaro is one of the sexiest muscle cars in
the world. Think I'll buy a Zune and tell everyone it fits me perfectly:
powerful, fast and incredibly sexy. Perfect for the nacent middle-age
American male :-)"

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November 16, 2006 2:35 PM has 100-plus customers for every Wii

Posted by Brier Dudley

Here's part of a note Amazon sent to customers on its Wii waiting list today:

We will be limiting purchases to one per household and we anticipate that we will sell through our inventory very quickly as we've received 100 times more Wii email sign-ups than consoles we'll have available for sale (i.e., for every Nintendo Wii we'll have for sale, over 100 people have signed up to be notified).

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November 16, 2006 1:15 PM

Microsoft announces another MSN reorg in WSJ

Posted by Brier Dudley

So is Microsoft's former sales chief turned platform boss Kevin Johnson moving one of his ad sales lieutenants into the top spot at MSN?

That's what Rob Guth is reporting in an front-page profile of VP Joanne Bradford that leaves the impression the Microsoft techies just didn't get advertising sales when she arrived back in 2001.

Ms. Bradford had run afoul of a Microsoft corporate culture that elevated technology above all else. The bias would soon haunt the company as it struggled to compete with Google Inc., a company that rose to prominence through the power of online advertising.

I thought Google was the place that elevated technology above all else and Microsoft was where they paid too much attention to marketing, but maybe I'm getting the spins confused.

The Journal story implies that Microsoft's weak ad performance will be fixed now that a sales type will be in charge of MSN, but it doesn't say much aboutt how the group has changed after a series of reorganizations over the past five years. Their eventual effect was to split the old MSN into two pieces -- the consumer facing services, and the underlying technology platform.

When you think about that reorganization, it makes a lot of sense to have an ad type running MSN.

The reorganizations had put an engineering type, David Cole, in charge of MSN until he left on sabbatical and possibly retirement in March. Blake Irving ran the MSN technology platform for Cole until March, when the platform until the platform group was made a separate entity under the Windows Live banner.

It sounds like Bradford is taking Cole's spot, which suggests it will be more ad focused and less oriented toward trying new online consumer technologies -- just like MSN itself.

Bradford used to run MSN advertising, then she became Microsoft's "chief media revenue officer" in charge of digital advertising on all Microsoft properties, including Live, IPTV and Xbox as well as MSN.

Guth said she's now being promoted to run MSN: "In the latest signal that Microsoft has gotten the online-ad religion, a company official said yesterday that Ms. Bradford, 43 years old, will soon be named to head its MSN online group, which runs a Web site delivering news, video and services such as email and instant messaging."

I'm curious to know if Bradford will also run Live advertising. If not, who will take her place as chief media revenue officer, global sales and marketing?

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November 16, 2006 12:40 PM

They're not PS3 fanboys, they're PS3 flippers

Posted by Brier Dudley

That was my impression after talking to Troy Goiger and Tony Durazo, two 21-year-old University of Washington students who are first in the PS3 line at the University Village Sony store.

They both plan to immediately sell the consoles online for the highest price possible.

Their hourly earnings should be higher than the people who started lining up outside Best Buy and Circuit City stores last week -- Goiger and Durazo showed up Wednesday around noon. Others came later that evening, and today there were about 20 people huddled outside the store.

A store employee didn't know how many consoles are coming, but said some of the people in line will probably end up on a waiting list for the next shipment.

Meanwhile, nobody but a reporter was playing the PS3 on display inside the store. Available for play was an amazing Mad Max-like offroad racing game called "Motor Storm" that captures the feel of this week's console-shopping frenzy:

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November 16, 2006 12:32 PM

So much for the death of mainstream media

Posted by Brier Dudley

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November 15, 2006 10:54 AM

Friction already in Microsoft-Novell partnership?

Posted by Brier Dudley

The grip-and-grin photo op has passed. Now comes the hard stuff, like finalizing the creative licensing agreement to protect open-source developers from Microsoft lawsuits.

For an inside look at the Microsoft side, check out the blog of Jason Matusow, the company's open source liaison. He's been asking the community for input on how to sort out the licensing situation and getting some pointed comments.

Meanwhile, Eben Moglen turned up the heat by suggesting the Microsoft-Novell deal violates the GPL and will fail by March.

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November 15, 2006 10:39 AM

Microsoft takes free Wi-Fi plunge in Linuxtown

Posted by Brier Dudley

The free software fans in Portland looking for free Internet access will be greeted by Microsoft's MSN and Windows Live Search.

Microsoft is hooking up with MetroFi, the company developing Portland's free WiFi service.

Google has made a similar partnership in San Francisco, and the two Internet giants are expected to extend their presence through other urban networks.

Unfortunately, the city of Seattle spurned free Wi-Fi and is holding out for a public-private fiber optic partnership.

Perhaps Nickels Technology Partners Inc. LLC is giving Clearwire a chance to charge residents $30 a month for wireless Net access, instead.

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November 15, 2006 10:03 AM

Enterprise Wednesday: iConclude, SQL news

Posted by Brier Dudley

Bellevue startup iConclude will get a boost from a new partnership with Opsware, the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based data-center automation heavyweight. Opsware will sell iConclude's automation technology through its global sales network -- similar to the way Budweiser distributes Redhook microbrews.

Across the lake in Seattle, Microsoft's outgoing SQL boss Paul Flessner talked up several product releases at the PASS database conference:

-- A beta preview of SQL Server 2005's SP2 is now available, featuring updates such as data compression, additional business intelligence features, security updates, support for Vista and optimization for the 2007 Office System.

-- A release candidate of SQL Server 2005 Compact Edition.

-- He also announced that Visual Studio Team Edition for Database Professionals will be released to manufacturing Nov. 30. It may be a great product, but VSTEDP sounds like something to discuss with a urologist.

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November 14, 2006 4:03 PM

Winer wants to hack Zunecasts

Posted by Brier Dudley

Dave Winer said he had an early peek inside the Zune corridor and saw lots of motivational images of Steve Jobs. He also wants details of the device's protocols.

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November 14, 2006 3:50 PM

Techies want the PS3

Posted by Brier Dudley

Here's what IT workers want for Christmas, according to a poll of 1,000 by the Computing Technology Industry Association. Here's their wishlist, with the percentage of votes cast for each gadget:

1. Sony PlayStation 3 21.2%
2. HDTV 18.1
3. Xbox 360 10.2
4. Digital camera 9.0
5. Smartphone 5.8
6. MP3 player 5.7
7. Wireless home network 4.6
8. Digital video recorder 4.4
9. Tablet PC 4.1
10. HD-DVD player 2.4
11. Portable media center 1.5

So is there still hope for the PMC?

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November 14, 2006 3:20 PM

Where Bill Gates is putting his own money

Posted by Brier Dudley

Bill's investment holding company, Cascade Investments, released a report on its current portfolio today. If you're a fantasy investor and want to follow his steps, here's the allocation, including two types of treasury fund:

Berkshire Hathaway: $387,990,000 (4,050 shares)
Canadian National Railway: $1,296,147,000 (30,904,800 shares)
Fisher Communications: $18,934,000 (455,700 shares)
Four Seasons Hotel: $45,707,000 (715,850 shares)
Grupo Televisa: $413,277,000 (19,439,200 shares)
Otter Tail: $74,752,000 (2,556,499 shares)
PNM Resources: $179,744,000 (6,519,550 shares)
Republic Services: $728,939,000 (18,128,301 shares)
Six Flags: $53,401,000 (10,210,600 shares)
Western Asset Claymore US Treasury: $26,244,000 (2,270,200 shares)
Western Asset Claymore US Treasury: $47,843,000 (4,113,800 shares)

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November 14, 2006 2:11 PM

Bach to Bach Zune talk, and thoughts on Browngate

Posted by Brier Dudley

Zune boss Robbie Bach shared his thoughts on the Zune business and Sony's PlayStation 3 during an interview Monday at his office in Redmond. It may not captivate the gadget crowd, but I think the creative business approaches are where the Zune will really get traction against the iPod.

Bach also spent time with reporters in San Jose who ran a different Zune Q&A.

The San Jose guys were the latest to go off on the brown model. I didn't ask about the color because I think the subject has been covered enough -- Kim Peterson had a detailed story on it Monday -- but I think you'll hear more about Browngate as more reviewers get their hands on the device.

I think the brown Zune is a sort of Rohrschach test -- iPod fans over age 30 seem to think it's a big deal, potentially another misstep in Microsoft's ill-fated pursuit of Apple. Others seem just mildly curious.

At least that's my impression after carrying around a brown Zune for a few days. It makes me think of a comment I heard at the Zune offices in September -- that the brown color and soft texture evokes a wallet.

Any controversy about the color is a dream come true for Zune marketers. The conversation begins with the assumption that Microsoft made a bold move, even though the color choice was based on conservative market research and testing. It also deflects "copying the iPod" stories.

Tut-tutting about the color also makes the Zune more appealing to the young consumers Microsoft is targeting. Nothing makes a product more attractive to them than knowing that it perplexes oldsters and the mainstream.

No wonder the brown Zune has a green tint around the edge -- that's the color of money.

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November 13, 2006 9:39 AM

Sony PlayStation fans think I'm wrong

Posted by Brier Dudley

They weren't keen on today's column, where I shared my first impression of the PlayStation 3. It's a neat console but I can see why the Xbox guys are smiling.

A sample from my inbox: "You give the term, 'Homer' a whole new meeting."

P.S. to the guy e-mailing from It was a column, not a news story, and it was supposed to express an opinion.

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November 10, 2006 12:40 PM

Free Zune concert at Westlake

Posted by Brier Dudley

To mark the launch of its Zune media player, Microsoft is paying for New York rockers Secret Machines to play a free concert Monday at the Westlake park at Fourth Avenue and Pine Street.

Similar "flash" concerts are happening in New York, L.A., Chicago, Atlanta and Miami on Monday, featuring an assortment of funky bands. Funny, they forgot the Bay Area.

I wonder if any members of Microsoft's Vista team will still be partying downtown when Monday's show begins.

The Secret Machines sound fun, but L.A. and New York are getting the A-listers: Red Hot Chili Peppers and Queens of the Stone Age.

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November 10, 2006 10:14 AM

Ontela gets funding

Posted by Brier Dudley

Fierce Wireless today reported that Ontela received $4.5 million from Hunt Ventures, Oak Investment Partners and Voyager Capital.

Ontela, a Pioneer Square startup led by former RealNetworks veteran Dan Shapiro, is developing technology for sharing photos taken with camera phones.

Its "PicDeck" service can automatically transfer photos from phones to a PC or to online photo services. One of its big selling points is that it installs on a phone in less than a minute.

The funding "will support the company's efforts as it moves from closed service trials to market deployment of its PicDeck mobile imaging platform in 2007,'' the announcement said.

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November 10, 2006 9:58 AM

Bill's unclaimed wealth

Posted by Brier Dudley

Astute reader Stephen Wallingford Price pointed me to the state Department of Revenue's online register of unclaimed property.

It says the state has some money belonging to a certain William H. Gates of Medina -- a Qwest rebate worth between $50 and $100.

Wallingford cc'd me on an e-mail he sent to Bill, letting him know about the windfall.

"I know you must be pretty busy, and probably don't have time to do things like this yourself,'' he wrote. "Heck, you probably even have people on your staff who are too busy to mess around with piddley stuff like hunting down every little nickel and dime you might have coming to you. But, hey, maybe some kid in Africa or Albania or Elbonia could use this moolah, instead of having it sitting in limbo somewhere in Olympia."

The site also shows that Microsoft has a list of unclaimed monies being held by the state. Is the company waiting for a slow quarter to collect?

Average folk can also enter their names to see if they have any money floating around.

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November 9, 2006 5:04 PM

Console indecision at

Posted by Brier Dudley

What do customers ultimately buy after checking out the Sony PS3 listing at

As of this afternoon, the site said 33 percent went on to buy an HD-DVD drive for the Xbox 360. Another 33 percent bought "The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess" for Nintendo's Wii, and the remaining 33 percent bought "Final Fantasy XII" for the PS2.

That was for the $499 core system. Of the people viewing the $599 premium system, half went on to buy the HD-DVD drive and half bought "Final Fantasy."

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November 9, 2006 2:24 PM

Microsoft's Photosynth available now

Posted by Brier Dudley

The company's coolest new Web application is now available for public consumption.

Robert Scoble said it wowed the in-crowd at the Web 2.0 conference in San Francisco.

Photosynth is a great local story -- it grew out of research at Microsoft, the University of Washington and a Ballard startup that Microsoft acquired. Ben Romano did a nice story on the software in August.

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November 9, 2006 11:16 AM

Zune leaves Pogue & Mossberg conflicted

Posted by Brier Dudley

As expected, Microsoft gave the first Zune review opportunities to the Wall Street Journal's crusty Apple-loving Walt Mossberg and the New York Times Macaholic David Pogue.

Dean Rutz/Seattle Times
The Zune was unveiled in a press conference in September.

Walt liked the Zune's interface, saying it's actually better in some ways than the iPod's. But he was persnickety about the "big chunky" case and the battery life that he called "very disappointing."

Pogue was even more conflicted. He said the "noticeably thicker" Zune can't match the coolness of his iPod, he dissed its control wheel and gave it the old "Microsoft version 1.0" dig. But he acknowledged the Zune is an "excellent" player, he didn' take issue with its battery life and he said its software is "beautiful, simple and graced by brief, classy animations."

I've played with the Zune several times and didn't find the case big and chunky, especially compared with devices like the MusicGremlin. The Zune is a bit bigger than the iPod, but we're still talking about 30 gigabytes of music storage in something that's about the size of a deck of cards. I think their deep and unwavering love for the iPod is revealed by their making a big deal out of 0.2 inches of thickness on a device that has a bigger screen and radio features that the iPod lacks.

Walt didn't mention the finish, which seems like an important point of differentiation since the devices are meant to be fondled and fiddled with like a pipe or worry beads. On that front, I prefer the velvety feel of the Zune to the slick, metal and plastic feel of the iPod. That's pretty subjective -- it's sort of like choosing to drink beer in a brown glass bottle instead of an aluminum can -- so I'd definitely make sure to hold both devices before deciding which one to buy.

More objective is the battery life testing that Walt was able to do with the Zune. Microsoft hasn't yet given this lowly Seattle journalist a chance to do this sort of test, so I was really interested in Walt's take. He concluded that Microsoft overstated the battery life, but I wonder how much people will really care if they get 12 hours instead of 14 hours of music on a single charge.

Microsoft claims 14 hours of music playback on a single charge with the wireless feature turned off -- the same as the comparable iPod -- and 13 hours with wireless turned on. But Microsoft bases these claims on strict and unnatural usage conditions, such as never increasing the default volume, playing only one album over and over, and keeping the backlight on for just one second.
I tested the Zune in more normal conditions, shuffling through hundreds of songs, adjusting the volume where needed, skipping or repeating songs occasionally and using a 30-second backlight. In my test, I got just 12 hours and 18 minutes of music playback, versus 14 hours and 44 minutes from an iPod under the same usage pattern. With the wireless turned on, battery life on the Zune was worse -- just 10 hours and 12 minutes, even though I didn't send or receive any songs.

Pogue rightfully gives Microsoft the third-degree for its previous missteps in the media player business before he gets to the Zune.

As it turns out, the player is excellent. It can't touch the iPod's looks or coolness, but it's certainly more practical. It's coated in slightly rubberized plastic, available in white, black or brown -- yes, brown. It won't turn heads, but it won't get fingerprinty and scratched, either. It sounds just as good as the iPod.
The Zune matches the price ($250) and capacity of the 30-gigabyte iPod. But it's noticeably thicker (0.6 inch vs. 0.4), taller (4.4 inches vs. 4.1) and heavier (5.6 ounces vs. 4.8). Battery life is the same for music playback (14 hours), slightly better for video (4 hours vs. 3.5). The three-inch screen has the same 320-by-240-pixel resolution, but it's larger (3 inches vs. 2.5), so movies and slide shows feel more expansive.
What looks like an iPod scroll wheel, though, is a fakeout. It doesn't turn, and it's not touch-sensitive. Instead, it's just four buttons hidden under the compass points of a plastic ring.
Scrolling accelerates as you press the top or bottom button, but the iPod's wheel is much more efficient. On the other hand, the Zune's left and right buttons jump between menus (for example, Album, Artist, Genre) with less backtracking. The software design is beautiful, simple and graced by brief, classy animations.

I doubt the hipsters that Microsoft is targeting with the initial Zune marketing will pay much attention to either review, but you know the team at Bear Creek is parsing every word. The Word of Walt may even factor into their performance reviews.

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November 8, 2006 11:29 AM

The youngest Windows Vista tester, in Laurelhurst

Posted by Brier Dudley

That would be Jim Allchin's 7-year-old son, who is running a Vista PC.

Allchin mentioned this during today's announcement that Vista is done, to emphasize the software's security.

He said his son's safe on the computer even though there's no antivirus system on the machine, which is "locked down with parental controls."

"I feel totally confident about that. That is quite a statement," Allchin said. "I couldn't say that with Windows XP SP2."

A few minutes later, Allchin backtracked a bit."I'm not trying to encourage people not to run antivirus software,'' he said. "I was just making the point that in his extreme, locked-down situation he didn't -- he's not running e-mail."

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November 8, 2006 9:53 AM

Allchin says "it's time"

Posted by Brier Dudley

Time for Vista to be released to manufacturing, that is. Details are coming at an 11 a.m. conference call, but it's on the Vista blog now.

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November 8, 2006 9:36 AM

New UW computer degree program in T-town

Posted by Brier Dudley

University of Washington Tacoma's Institute of Technology will begin offering a bachelor of science in computer engineering and systems in January, teaching engineers to design hardware, software and particularly embedded systems.

The program is now taking applications from transfer students who have studied calculus, physics and chemistry, and perhaps have an associate of science degree. It opens to freshman starting next fall.

More info will be available at an open house at 6 p.m. Nov. 16. For more information, call 253-692-5860 or check the school's Web site.

Most graduates will likely enter careers working with embedded systems, according to Professor Larry Wear, head of the new program.

"Pretty much anything you buy today that runs on electricity has a computer in it," he said in a release. "Computer engineers now put computer chips into devices that until recently were not controlled by computers. They need to understand how the hardware works and figure out how to interface computer chips with devices like toasters and stereos."

The 5-year-old institute also offers degrees in computing and software systems.

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November 7, 2006 2:50 PM

Fost's "Top 10 Lies About Web 2.0"

Posted by Brier Dudley

The Chronicle gave a warm reception to the Web 2.0 conference this week in San Francisco. The list, which I learned about at Scripting News, begins like this:

1. We learned our lesson last time. And we're going to cash out before this bubble pops.

2. This is not a bubble. Hot parties, overheated PR pitches, and five or six dozen social networking sites are just healthy indicators of a new boom.

3. It's all about community and sharing. But we told our venture capitalists that our exit strategy will make them rich. (Corollary: But you have to know someone to get into our conference/party.)

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November 7, 2006 2:13 PM

Google and newspapers try holding hands

Posted by Brier Dudley

Google's experiment with newspaper advertising was foreshadowed at a big industry conference in Seattle in April.

Executives at the conference fretted about online competitors, and some suggested that papers would have to form partnerships with companies such as Google, Microsoft and Yahoo! to survive. That may be where the Google experiment was hatched.

At the time, I said papers had better be careful because the online companies have made no secret of their plans to take a bigger share of the ad dollars that now go to print media.

I don't know enough about the Google deal to say whether papers are being penny wise and pound foolish. But on the surface, it seems crazy for papers to give a major competitor so much information about their business.

A San Francisco Chronicle story said the risk is that Google could hijack newspaper ads, but I think the danger is more subtle.

Google's advantage is that it has incomparable data to analyze and manage advertising performance. Whether or not the newspaper experiment works, Google will end up with even more information that it can use to improve its system and sell advertisers on its model.

For the sake of the press -- and my job security -- I hope newspapers get as much useful information from Google and Google gets from them during this experiment.

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November 7, 2006 1:57 PM

Others on YouTube's post-Google growing pains

Posted by Brier Dudley

YouTube traffic has flattened since it was sold to Google, according to's Alexa traffic count. It's early to draw conclusions but the info generated some interesting comments at the Alexa blog:

Copyrighted material is one issue, as I mentioned in Monday's column.

But YouTube's users aren't going to stick around if they continue having troubles like those spelled out in the video below, which was sent to me by a reader with similar concerns about the YouTube's quality of service.

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November 7, 2006 1:27 PM

Call him Dr. Soma

Posted by Brier Dudley

Like many engineers and executives at Microsoft, S. "Soma" Somasegar left graduate school to join the company.

Ken Lambert / Seattle Times
S. Somasegar has been honored by Anna University.

It turned out to be a good decision. He rose to vice president of the company's influential developer division, and he still ended up getting a doctorate.

Yesterday Soma's alma mater, Anna University in Chennai, India, gave him an honorary doctor of science degree "for his outstanding achievements in the field of computer science and in appreciation of technical innovation and excellence."

He graduated from Anna's engineering school in 1986 with a degree in electrical engineering. He received a master's in computer engineering from Louisiana State University in 1988, and was continuing his graduate studies at the State University of New York in Buffalo when he left for Redmond's warmer climate.

Soma also played a key role leading Microsoft to open its India engineering center. The folks in Chennai gave him the honorary degree, even though he located the center in Hyderabad.

Soma is also one of the most prolific and public bloggers among Microsoft's executive group. He hasn't mentioned the degree on his blog, though, which most recently was touting software tools to help developers work with Office 2007.

UPDATE: Soma was also profiled by the Hindustan Times, which called him a "Geek God."

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November 6, 2006 2:44 PM

Wii, PS3 camping guide

Posted by Brier Dudley

Great post flagged by Slashdot today: "The PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Wii Launch Day Camp-Out Guide."

Among the things to learn ahead of time, if you'll be camping out for a console:

"Where is the best place to line up? (Nothing's more embarrassing than waiting for days outside of a Best Buy to find out that the line is at another entrance. And, yes, I've heard about this happening.)"

If you need inspiration, here's a photo of the guy who bought the first Xbox 360 at the Bellevue Best Buy last year. He's the one with his arms in the air.


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November 6, 2006 12:15 PM

Mr. Monopoly buying more hotels

Posted by Brier Dudley

Bill Gates is offering $1.2 billion of his own cash in a $3.7 billion deal with a Saudi prince to take the Four Seasons Hotels private.

Gates already owns 2 percent of the company personally, and he and his wife own 6 percent more on behalf of their foundation.

It's a local story on several levels.

The Four Seasons is also opening a new hotel-condo complex next to the Seattle Art Museum, which is run by Mimi Gates, the wife of Bill's father. The building is being developed by a tech-heavy consortium that includes Bruce McCaw and Tom Alberg, according to this write-up in a hotel trade publication.

What's really juicy is the thought that rich people staying at swanky Four Seasons hotels could be helping the world's poor, via the Gates Foundation, if the buyout goes through.

For a partner in the hotel deal, Bill and Melinda chose a relatively progressive Saudi. I wonder if their philanthropy will rub off on him.

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November 6, 2006 11:02 AM

Goldman analyst Sherlund seeks upgrade

Posted by Brier Dudley

Perennial top-ranked Microsoft analyst Rick Sherlund is leaving Goldman Sachs to perhaps work as an investor. He may start a hedge fund but first he wants to work on the buy-side, according to a Wall Street Journal story that broke the news Saturday.

I think he should forget hedge funds and try working as a reporter. The Journal related how Sherlund confirmed Microsoft was hooking up with Novell last week:

"Mr. Sherlund's team called the San Francisco hotel where Microsoft had said it would hold a news conference of unspecified nature. He confirmed the partnership after the hotel told the caller that the meeting would be in the 'Microsoft-Novell' room, he said."

How about covering Microsoft for the Associated Press?

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November 6, 2006 9:57 AM

Salmi, MTV and YouTube keeping it real

Posted by Brier Dudley

When I finally caught up with Mika Salmi last week, he shared a great anecdote about an encounter with YouTube boss Chad Hurley.

I typed it up as a blog entry but just before pushing the "post" button, I decided instead to use it in today's column looking at the evolution of online video.

Maybe I'm too old school. I could have posted the anecdote, then used it again as a column. But that doesn't feel right, especially since the column has a lot more readers than the blog.

On the other hand, the blog always needs fresh, strong material. What goes where and when is an ongoing question as we explore different ways to provide both online and offline news. It's a little inside baseball, but I'd love to hear feedback and suggestions about the approaches I'm taking here.

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November 3, 2006 1:59 PM

Mark Anderson joins the blogosphere

Posted by Brier Dudley

The masses can now get a sample of Mark Anderson's tech insights at his new Strategic News Service blog.

The blog is the latest extension of the Friday Harbor tech pundit's publishing network. He writes the widely read SNS newsletter, he produces an annual conference and roundtable events around the world, and he recently started a premium newsletter called "Ahead of the Curve" for institutional investors.

It costs $595 a year to subscribe to the SNS newsletter so I was surprised that Mark's putting his stuff on a free blog. Here's how he explained the decision to me this afternoon:

I expect that blogging will introduce our brand to a much larger universe of people who would like to know about SNS. I'm just learning, too, and there is an obvious contrast between the "wild west" of blogging and the scientific approach I've tried to bring to predictions at the newsletter.
In short, we won't be exposing much of the letter content, so the value will remain there, while we think that by exposing new ideas via the blog, we will be able to have a conversation with a much larger group of interested, and interesting, people.

Mark's also been talking to Dave Winer, who said he nudged Mark to start the blog, when they met in Seattle last week.

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November 3, 2006 11:38 AM

Jeff Bezos on another magazine cover

Posted by Brier Dudley

This time it's BusinessWeek's Nov. 13 issue, which looks at's Web services initiatives and that's getting a cool reception from investors.

At the very least, it's a better photo than this creepy cover shot.

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November 3, 2006 10:58 AM

Online advice for entrepreneurs

Posted by Brier Dudley

If you're starting a business and missed the great presentations by local execs and financiers at yesterday's Entrepreneur University at the Sheraton, spokeswoman Renee Gastineau me they'll be posting audio recordings (call them podcasts if you want ...) of the sessions on the Northwest Entrepreneur Network's Web site in a few weeks.

I wanted to spend more time at the event, trolling for column ideas and hearing about startups in the pipeline, but I had to get back for the Microsoft-Linux announcement.

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November 3, 2006 10:14 AM

Linus warm to Microsoft Linux deal, but doesn't indemnify

Posted by Brier Dudley

I was lucky to get in touch with Linus Torvalds for today's column on the Microsoft-Novell deal. Getting his perspective helped shape my ideas, and he gave me a terrific quote.

Wall Street has moved on to other things, like rising oil prices and interest rate worries.

Going forward I'm not sure how we'll track the success of the partnership and its effect on Linux. Hopefully customers will make it known whether their situation improves.

Merrill Lynch analyst Kash Rangan thinks Red Hat will be benefit the most, partly because Novell's credibility with the open-source community will decline. That's probably why Red Hat declined to enter a similar partnership with Microsoft, he said.

I don't think the credibility issue is that significant, especially among the big enterprise customers who are more concerned about cost, efficiency and service than the purity of their open-source software.

Rangan did make a good point about the indemnification protection that's part of the Microsoft-Novell Linux offering. He said that's an old issue that hasn't limited Linux uptake lately.

"Linux/RedHat survived and thrived through the indemnification (perhaps intimidation) and patent issues raised by SCO 2-3 years back,'' he wrote. "Understandably, Microsoft is raising the profile of the issue in order to secure its Windows franchise and monetize Linux synthetically, and Novell sees this as an opportunity to regain its relevance in Linux."

It's not the first time Microsoft has raised that issue with customers. Here's a story about Steve Ballmer's infamous Singapore speech in 2004. This followup story sheds light on Microsoft's concerns about intellectual property that factored into the Novell agreement.

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November 2, 2006 3:12 PM

E-voting roundup, state by state

Posted by Brier Dudley

Angela Gunn produced a nice report on e-voting technology used state-by-state for Computerworld. You can click through a map to see what each state uses.

It's a nice companion piece to the profile we ran on local e-voting watchdog Bev Harris yesterday.

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November 2, 2006 2:27 PM

Zune website goes live

Posted by Brier Dudley

Still want to learn more about Zune? is up today. It's got details and prices about accessories, information about concerts and artists sponsored by Zune and explanations of the product and download service.

In other words, it's mostly marketing/advertising/brand building stuff. But it's also where you'll be able to get the free Zune jukebox software after the portable device goes on sale Nov. 14.

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November 2, 2006 2:12 PM

Ozzie, Diffie and others on public key cryptography

Posted by Brier Dudley

If you missed the Computer History Museum's celebration and roundtable discussion marking the 30th anniversary of public key cryptography last week, a podcast and video are available here at a site hosted by event co-sponsor Voltage Security.

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November 2, 2006 11:31 AM

China's regime worsening, Microsoft may pull out - Not

Posted by Brier Dudley

The first Microsoft bombshell of the day: concerns about China's repressive government could lead Microsoft to leave the country, a company executive said at a conference in Athens, according to this BBC story flagged on Slashdot today.

"Things are getting bad ... and perhaps we have to look again at our presence there," senior policy counsel Fred Tipson said in the story.

"We have to decide if the persecuting of bloggers reaches a point that it's unacceptable to do business there. ... We try to define those levels and the trends are not good there at the moment. It's a moving target."

It sounds unbelievable, after the huge investment Microsoft has made in China, where it does research and development, testing, education outreach, services outsourcing and hardware manufacturing. Not to mention the software it sells in the country.

Would the company really break from the pack and make that powerful but costly statement? Is it throwing its weight around to pressure the Chinese government, similar to the way the Chinese government has pressured Microsoft to step up investments there?

Maybe Tipson was speaking rhetorically. Or perhaps it's posturing related to the human rights initiative shareholders will vote on at Microsoft's Nov. 14 annual meeting.

Update: Microsoft said this is hogwash. It's not leaving China anytime soon, according to a statement spokesman Lou Gellos emailed me:

"Microsoft will continue to offer services and communication tools in China. Contrary to an inaccurate press account of Microsoft comments at the Internet Governance Forum, we are not considering the suspension of our Internet services in China. On the contrary, we believe it is better for customers if Microsoft is present in global markets with these tools and services that can not only promote greater communication, but can also help foster economic opportunity and societal advancement."

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November 2, 2006 10:26 AM

RealNetworks Rhapsody phones on the way

Posted by Brier Dudley

RealNetworks will continue extending its Rhapsody subscription music service to new devices, including two categories of mobile phones over the next 12 to 18 months, Senior Vice President Dan Sheeran said today.

"You'll see mobile phones come to market that fit both those categories,'' Sheeran said during a presentation at the Northwest Entrepreneur Network's "Entrepreneur University" event at the Seattle Sheraton.

Rhapsody will go onto phones that can stream music stored on the network -- what Sheeran chacterized as the "celestial jukebox." The music platform will also be used on phones that can both stream network music and play music stored locally on the devices.

The phones with local storage are likely to use flash memory such as the Micro SD cards produced by SanDisk, one of Real's key partners as it moves its technology onto devices. SanDisk also manufactures flash-based MP3 players, including the first Rhapsody branded device introduced a month ago.

In his presentation on the role of platforms in business, Sheeran described how Real weighed different approaches for its new platform approach. It considered the closed-platform approach that Apple's using with its iPod and iTunes and the more open approach Microsoft tried with its "Plays for Sure" digital music platform over the past four years.

Real tried to use Plays for Sure but the platform had technical problems with interoperability and limited how much Real could develop unique products, he said.

"What we found was when we were dealing with somebody else's technology platform we were limited by innovation we were able to do,'' he said.

"Even if it worked at an interoperability level it was going to lead to a lot of services and devices that all looked the same."

That situation benefited the platform provider more than companies selling services based on that platform, he said.

Real realized several years ago that Plays for Sure wouldn't prevail and Microsoft would go a different direction, which it's now doing with the Zune product and its Apple-like closed platform.

"We knew that regardless of what they did we were going to have to get onto our own platform,'' he said. "We thought it was only a matter of time before they made the shift they did."

So Real developed what Sheeran characterized as a "hybrid" approach for its Rhapsody platform, similar to those used by TiVo and XM radio. Real maintains controls on copy protection and file transfer technology and specifies technology on the consumer interface such as the music guide.

"The goal is to define enough of the touchpoints between the different parts of the customer experience that we could really deliver on a brand promise if we put the Rhapsody logo on a device,'' he said.

Microsoft's mixed messages with Zune and Plays for Sure gave Real an opening to work with Best Buy, which is now the major outlet for SanDisk Rhapsody MP3 players, Sheeran said.

"Zune tells them that Microsoft doesn't believe in its own Plays for Sure market,'' he said.

As for competition going forward, Sheeran said Real faces "strong competition" from Apple and Microsoft.

"There will be more than one winner,'' he said.

UPDATE: A little context, now that I'm back in the office. Perhaps Sheeran was expanding on what to expect from Real's September acquisition of WiderThan, a South Korean mobile music company. Here's Tricia's write-up of that deal.

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November 1, 2006 12:45 PM

Atom founder Mika Salmi now an MTV executive

Posted by Brier Dudley

Mika Salmi

MTV Networks just announced that Mika Salmi is now president of the network's global digital media business, reporting to Judy McGrath, MTVN chair and chief executive.

He'll "work across MTVN's growing portfolio of multiplatform brands to further develop and implement the company's strategy of building an engaging universe of music, games, entertainment, networking and interactivity for its communities of targeted audiences," the release said.

Salmi started Atom Films in Seattle in 1998, and ran the company through its acquisitions and move to San Francisco. Finally it was sold to MTV in August for $200 million.

I wrote a column a few weeks ago comparing Atom to YouTube. I tried to reach Salmi then but we couldn't connect. At the time I heard hints that he was in line for a new position but it wasn't final.

An MTV spokesperson told me Salmi will divide time between MTV headquarters in New York and his current base of operations in San Francisco.

"With Mika's guidance, our digital teams will continue the momentum we have today, to extend our brands across every platform while creating new business, and next generation applications across every device that engages our community. And he brings that upbeat entrepreneurial spirit that is a hallmark of the digital age," McGrath said in the release.

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November 1, 2006 10:39 AM

Microsoft settles thorny JPEG patent suit

Posted by Brier Dudley

Forgent Networks, the Texas enterprise software company that sued Microsoft and others for infringing on its JPEG patent, today announced that "all of the parties in the cases have reached a settlement."

Forgent sued companies throughout the tech industry, but Microsoft fought back particularly hard and tried to invalidate Forgent's patent on the image-compression technology.

But the parties want the details to be kept secret.

"Forgent is precluded from disclosing the terms of the agreement,'' the announcement said.

But that didn't prevent Forgent from providing details in a 10-K report to the SEC filed Monday, however. The filing suggests that Forgent may have settled because things weren't going its way in the case.

"On June 28, 2006, the Court issued its claims construction ruling, which favored the majority of the defendants' claims construction. Specifically, the Court ruled the claims to be limited to video. As a result of the unfavorable claims construction ruling, Forgent pursued settlement negotiations with the remaining defendants. On October 25, 2006, Forgent signed a Patent License and Settlement Agreement with the remaining defendants. Under this agreement, Forgent granted the defendants a patent license and the defendants agreed to pay Forgent $8.0 million."

Microsoft didn't elaborate, either.

"The parties have resolved the lawsuits on mutually agreeable terms, and we are pleased to have this case behind us,'' spokesman Jack Evans said via email.

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November 1, 2006 10:03 AM

Study: Majority of iPod owners would consider switch to Zune

Posted by Brier Dudley

Flamebait of the day: A new report by ABI Research asserts that 58 percent of iPod owners would be "somewhat likely" or "extremely likely" to choose Microsoft's Zune when they buy their next portable media player.

"Our conclusion is that iPod users don't display the same passionate loyalty to iPods that Macintosh users have historically shown for their Apple products," principal analyst Steve Wilson said in the news release.

Only 15 percent of iPod owners surveyed by the Oyster Bay, N.Y.-based firm said they were "not very likely" or "not at all likely" to choose Zune when they buy their player. Among that group are the folks who e-mail me sometimes.

A New York Times story today starts off in the same direction as the ABI report, leading with a nice profile of a consumer anxious to buy a Zune. Then it draws on commentary from Zune skeptic Ted Schadler at Forrester Research, and concludes that Apple will maintain its dominance this holiday season.

Wilson said Zune's ballyhooed Wi-fi music sharing feature "isn't all that compelling, at least not for now" and Apple had better come up with something new in 2007 to maintain its lead.

"Apple needs a new high-end device that works really well and looks really cool, because other brands are catching up,'' he said in the release.

What does that mean for the iPod halo effect?

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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.