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Brier Dudley's Blog

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

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May 1, 2007 1:35 PM

Goodbye Vizrea, hello WebFives

Posted by Brier Dudley

Vizrea, a Seattle mobile photo sharing startup, launched with a bang last year.

It was among a flurry of companies developing photo applications for advanced mobile phones, but it stood out in part because it had A-list Microsoft talent.

The company was started by Mike Toutonghi, a former Microsoft Distinguished Engineer who started and ran the Media Center project before he left the company in 2003. Vizrea started development in 2004 with backing from Brad Chase, a former Microsoft senior vice president.

Vizrea's service included a cameraphone application that would automatically add photos with a user's online photo collection -- hosted by Vizrea -- and share them with friends.

But by the end of the year, Vizrea was pretty quiet.

It turns out the company was going through a major reorganization.

On Friday, Vizrea was remade into WebFives, a video, photo and music sharing site. A formal launch is coming soon, but the site is running and accepting registrations.

A big change is that WebFives works with all sorts of mobile phones. Vizrea's initial service was geared toward high-end Symbian Series 60 phones that aren't widely used.

There are lots of content sharing services out there, but WebFives has a few differentiators. One is the business model that will be announced shortly.

Another is the technology, including image sharing technology developed between the company's offices in Seattle and Prague, where Toutonghi has a second home.

The technology enables users to share full-screen, digital TV quality video and CD-quality audio, for instance.

Toutonghi is still chief executive, but he's brought on another key manager to help build WebFives, Executive Vice President Gary Glouner.

Glouner is a telecom veteran who worked for McCaw Cellular and AT&T Wireless. Most recently he's been chief executive of Top Three Mobile, a location-based services firm with offices in Seattle and Santa Monica, Calif.

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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.