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Brier Dudley's Blog

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

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July 31, 2007 6:12 PM

Top 10 Seattle Web 2.0 startups

Posted by Brier Dudley

Marcelo Calbucci, a former Microsoftie who started blogging tool company Sampa.com, is keeping a nifty list of Seattle-area Web startups at his Seattle 2.0 blog.

It's not definitive -- it's based on sometimes sketchy Alexa traffic numbers -- but it's still interesting and fun. Here's his current Top 10:

1. Zillow
2. iLike
3. 43 Things (Robot Co-op)
4. Newsvine
5. BuddyTV
6. Wetpaint
7. BlueDot
8. Jobster
9. PayScale
10. Redfin

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July 31, 2007 12:37 PM

Most influential tech product: Internet Explorer?

Posted by Brier Dudley

That's the conclusion of a survey reported today by the Computing Technology Industry Association, a Microsoft-friendly group known as CompTIA.

Its survey of 471 IT pros asked what was the most influential technology product of the past 25 years. It's kind of interesting but I'll bet you'd get different results every time you did one of these surveys.

From the release:

Internet Explorer was selected as the most influential product of the past quarter-century by 66 percent of the IT professionals surveyed. The first version of the browser launched in 1995, and by 1999 Internet Explorer had become the market's predominant Web browser, a position it still holds today.

Microsoft Word was second place, chosen by 50 percent of respondents. Microsoft Excel and Apple's iPod tied for fourth place, with 49 percent each.

Others on the list, in descending order:

-- BlackBerry, 39 percent
-- Adobe Photoshop, 35 percent
-- McAfee VirusScan, 32 percent
-- Netscape Navigator, the browser that preceded Explorer in 1994, 31 percent
-- Palm, 31 percent

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July 30, 2007 3:48 PM

Details on $50 Xbox price cut reported

Posted by Brier Dudley

Word is trickling about a $50 price cut by Aug. 12, bringing the price of an Xbox 360 premium system to $349.

Microsoft hasn't provided details and wouldn't talk about price cuts during its analyst meeting last week, but the lower price appears in pre-printed newspaper insert ads dated Aug. 12, according to the Cheap Ass Gamer Web site.

Don't be too put off by the site's name: it provided visual evidence expanding on last week's Hollywood Reporter story about the $50 price cut.

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July 30, 2007 9:54 AM

Sarah Friar on Zune, Xbox, Vista and Yahoo!

Posted by Brier Dudley

Here are more edited excerpts from the interview I had last week with Sarah Friar, Goldman Sachs' new software analyst covering Microsoft. She's the subject of today's column.

Q: What do you think about Steve Ballmer's ill-fated February presentation to investors, when he told them to tone down Vista expectations. Was he trying to be open and fumbled it?

A: That one still perturbs me as to what exactly he was trying to do. He was definitely trying to temper expectations somewhat and he did that. I don't think he was trying to be as obtuse as he came across.

In reality he probably did just fumble a little bit. But this message about "some Street models are too high" -- still, no one has managed to work out what he meant by that.

You have a big personality there. Steve will do what he wants to do and the investor relations department can kind of script him and say here's how you should talk about it. But he's always going to get out there and say what he wants to say.

Q: Some people think the move to online productivity applications is imminent, now that Google's in the business. Others, like Sun and Oracle, have talked about it for 10 years now. When do you think it will happen?

A: I think it's three to five years. I don't think it's 10 because that would suggest it doesn't have a lot of momentum and that's not true. There's definite momentum to software as a service type deployment.

I think it will begin on the enterprise side rather than the consumer side and obviously Microsoft makes more money from the enterprise side so its important that they win the enterprise more. If I look at Google Apps, it's interesting what Google is trying to do, but Google is so far from being enterprise ready that I don't think they're as big a threat as people like to make them.

Selling to the enterprise -- part of it is product but it's also, "Have you got the sales force in place? Do you have the channel partners in place, do you have support in place?"

Look at Microsoft. They tried to get into enterprise sales and software for 10-plus years and this is Microsoft with all the sheer weight of spend they can bring, and yet it's only really in the last three or four years that the server and tools division has reached critical mass and become credible.

So the idea that Google would come from nowwhere and in a year suddenly be entreprise ready and out there, to me it's just not logical.

Q: Yahoo would be complicated and could distract executives.

A: Long story short, I don't know if I would be so delighted if they bought a Yahoo right now, even though there's a lot of pressure from the street to do something like that. I would much prefer that they keep investing hard in online services, doing it organically, being quick and nimble. Things like aQuantive make a lot of sense me.

They just won the Digg.com advertising deal -- really interesting to see them being more cool. Microsoft and cool -- you don't normally see that together -- but it was good that they were aggressively going after those sorts of thing and growing it more that way rather than going after Yahoo right now.

Q: Speaking of trying to be cool, what do you think about the Xbox business?

A: That's actually a great example of Microsoft being able to create real businesses. Xbox will be a $6 billion division for them, hopefully cracking into this year. There they've proven that they can learn a lesson. They were not successful in the prior console cycle; they never managed to get the profitability piece worked out. This cycle they have really managed to run against Sony quite nicely.

I think every time Sony gets close to being profitable, Microsoft will drop pricing and put the pressure back on Sony again. That makes them the aggressor, a much better place to be.

Q: Should they be chasing Apple with the Zune?

A: Zune is tougher for me. They haven't really shown their hand yet about what they could really do with it. It's not really a front I particularly want them to open. I'd prefer them to concentrate on things like online services.
I don't think they're even that super committed to it right now. Maybe they thought it was a good idea, but for now I don't see it as a core focus at all.

Q: What about Vista? I think that's why investors were upset with Ballmer. They expected a big pop when Vista finally came, and it didn't happen.

A: Vista to me is just not that important right now when I think about Microsoft. I'm more excited about other product cycles -- for example, the server rolling out at the end of the year; what we talked about with the Xbox division and Halo3 coming; actually Office 2007 being a much greater success story and some of the pieces they have linked onto.

The Vista OS will be what it will be; Microsoft still dominates in the operating system area. There was some concern they would lose share to the Mac; that's not happening. It will be much more a function of PC upgrade cycles happening and them getting pulled along.

When I say its not important -- its still a huge source of income, but I don't see a risk to it and I don't see a particular upside to it either.

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July 26, 2007 3:30 PM

More on Microsoft vs. Amazon's EC2

Posted by Brier Dudley

I wasn't the only one here who saw a challenge to Amazon.com's EC2 in Ray Ozzie's speech. One of the analysts just asked when Microsoft will start offering such a service.

Ozzie said he respects the Web services that Amazon is offering and appreciates how it has opened eyes to its potential. He basically confirmed Microsoft is going there, but he wouldn't say when.

"Directionally I think you could see in my presentation that we believe very heavily in this utility computing fabric,'' he said.

"Internally it's the only way we could get scale for the properties we run internally," he said. "It just makes sense to offer those services to developers and enterprises over time.''

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July 26, 2007 2:33 PM

Microsoft's challenge to Amazon.com's EC2 service

Posted by Brier Dudley

Ray Ozzie's telling analysts how Microsoft will provide a virtual computing platform similar to Amazon.com's elastic computing cloud.

Utility computing is one of the major services to be powered by Microsoft datacenters, such as the one in Quincy and a new one being developed in San Antonio. It's part of a platform Microsoft is building to position itself as the blend of local and online computing evolves.

Amazon's service is especially popular with startups because it's cheaper for new companies to rent computing capacity than to set up and manage services. But Amazon's service doesn't promise service levels that big established companies expect.

At the other end of the spectrum are premier utility computing services offered by companies such as IBM and Sun. It sounds as though Microsoft is trying to appeal to both ends.

Ozzie didn't promise service levels, but implied they'd be there. He said Microsoft's utility computing services will appeal to enterprises as they increasingly get used to services.

"Big companies will find this useful especially for their customer facing systems in handling demand spikes,'' he said.

Microsoft hosting is one of three options Microsoft is offering businesses, Ozzie said. Companies can also choose on-premises servers, which offer more control and customization, or choose hosted services offered by partners with vertical expertise, he said.

Services hosted in Microsoft's datacenters "will likely be much more horizontal in nature and where we'll take a paltform approach to it and offer the lowest possible cost that we can.''

Ozzie so far hasn't offered specifics about price or timing but utility computing was described as part of a group of services the company will introduce in the next 12 to 18 months.

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July 26, 2007 10:12 AM

Microsoft's future product list

Posted by Brier Dudley

Interesting slide from Steve Ballmer's analyst presentation. It's the pipeline of products the company will release during the 2008 fiscal year that began this month, and beyond.

They've pretty much all been disclosed separately, but it's striking to see them all together:

Slide in Microsoft's future products.jpg

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July 26, 2007 9:32 AM

Ballmer drops factoids, said it's more than software

Posted by Brier Dudley

Tidbits from Steve Ballmer's opening speech at Microsoft's analyst meeting:

-- Microsoft's operating income is the largest of any company in the world that's not in the oil or financial services businesses.

-- By the end of Microsoft's 2008 fiscal year next June, "there will be more PCs running Windows in the world than there are automobiles which is to me at least a mind-numbing concept."

-- Software will no longer be Microsoft's only core competency. The company has to build multiple business competencies, he said.

-- Tech isn't as fast as it seems. Ballmer said that one of the great misconceptions about the technology industry is that things happen overnight. He said "most successes in this business do in fact require long-term, sustained investment," customer feedback and commitment.

-- Over five years Microsoft acquired more than 80 companies.

-- Microsoft's recruiting is doing well. In the battle for the best and brightest, Microsoft is getting "90 percent of the people we go after,'' he said. Last year it hired 12,800 people, including 4,022 in "core" product development positions.

-- Microsoft is growing abroad, and continuing to bring talented people to Redmond. As an example, Ballmer said the company now has 1,000 Russian speakers on its campus.

-- There is a big disruption going on in the software business. Over the next five to 10 years, "every piece of software -- the basic core value in the way software gets created -- will change" and have a service component that's managed online.

"Were not moving to a world of thin computing. We're moving to a world of software plus services,'' he said.

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July 26, 2007 8:52 AM

Microsoft analyst meeting: Gates on tech, iPhone

Posted by Brier Dudley

Bill Gates is opening Microsoft's financial analyst meeting this morning in Redmond with a tech talk. He's describing what to expect during the next 10 years -- an updated version of his "digital decade" speech.

-- Processor clock speed won't keep advancing the way it has over the past 20 years. The big gains will instead come from multiple cores enabling parallel execution.

"We may get up into the 10 gigahertz range but not much higher than that five or six years out,'' he said.

-- Broadband "lets us think about the computing paradigm in a new way." Now you have a "balance of computation" between the computer near the user and computing in the datacenters powering online services. Gates of course said that computation near the users is "superior in terms of responsiveness" and doesn't have the latency issue of network services.

-- Bill apparently likes the iPhone. He mentioned it twice in the first 15 minutes of his speech, first as an example of how software is improving mobile devices and second when describing exciting "natural" interfaces such as touch and voice. He also mentioned Nintendo's Wii and explained how Microsoft has been investing in touch, voice and other natural interfaces for a long time. That was a lead-up to his demonstration of the Surface computing table, which failed to start. Ouch.

"It's more exciting when it actually does something, which right now it's not,'' he said, before moving on to the next part of his presentation.

-- Ten minutes after it froze, the Surface table is awake and Bill's doing the demo.

-- On gadgets, Gates said video will be streamed directly from cameras over improved wireless networks and uploaded to the home. Phones will be multifunction computing devices. "Think of the phone being a remote control, think of it as a device you can do gaming on,'' he said.

But unlike Apple, Microsoft's going to continue to focus mostly on software and work with phone manufacturers.

"Just like with the personal computer itself, the benefit we get from having a lot of hardware partners who can do great things is very helpful to us,'' he said.

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July 25, 2007 3:54 PM

AT&T apologizes for iPhone bundling

Posted by Brier Dudley

This is a lilypad in the great lake of iPhone news this week, but it could mean a lot to affected customers.

Late last week AT&T regional Vice President Mike Maxwell sent a letter apologizing to iPhone buyers who waited in line June 29 at some AT&T stores, only to be told they couldn't buy the phone unless they also bought $50 worth of accessories.

Maxwell's letter said it was a mistake, apologized and said the accessories can be returned for a full refund.

It's funny, someone at the AT&T store on Capitol Hill called me three week ago, apologized and said the price would be refunded automatically on my account and I could keep the accessories anyway. I still took them back.

Here's how Maxwell characterized the situation:

"We have become aware that in isolated incidents at a few of our stores, certain customers may have received the impression that they were required to purchase accessories with the iPhone. Please know that was not our policy. If you were under that impression, we extend to you the optionof returning the accessories to the store of purchase to receive a full refund."

It wasn't an impression. The clerks at the Capitol Hill store at least wouldn't hand over the iPhones unless you bought the accessories. I protested at the time and they wouldn't budge.

I don't think I was getting a special letter from Maxwell. It was sent to my house, using the name on the AT&T account I set up to try the iPhone.

But AT&T did get its revenge for my publicizing the forced iPhone bundling.

Our floors were refinished last week so we were away from home when the letter arrived on Saturday. It came through the mail slot and embedded itself in the freshly applied Swedish finish, leaving a semi-permanent reminder that I'll see every time I walk through the front door.

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July 25, 2007 3:21 PM

Ahead of MSFT analyst day, Gates sells $62 million

Posted by Brier Dudley

The timing is probably coincidental, but it was a little odd to see Bill Gates report today that he sold nearly 2 million shares of Microsoft stock this week.

Tomorrow is Microsoft's annual financial analyst meeting, an event that usually puts a positive spin on the stock.

Gates has steadily whittled down his Microsoft stake through big sales like Monday's, when he sold 1,999,800 shares at prices ranging from $31.15 to $31.45. He's still the biggest stockholder with about 11 percent of MSFT shares.

I wonder if he moved the money across town, into Amazon.com or Boeing. Maybe he just wanted to decorate his house like this.

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July 24, 2007 3:05 PM

Power out in SF, let's see what happens to Web 2.0

Posted by Brier Dudley

Vox, Craigslist, Technorati and other San Francisco-based Web services have gone down because the power's out in downtown San Francisco. You'd think they'd have a better backup plan.

I'm not sure how to monitor and record all the outages of Web 2.0 startups that are happening (will the founders Twitter each other and share the tally?) but it would be a great exercise. Online services pitch themselves as an essential part of your Web-connected life, so this ought to be a learning experience similar to the one Seattle techies experienced last December.

On the positive side, those browned-out companies have really cut their carbon footprint, unless they're firing up gas generators to get the lava lamps going again.

UPDATE: Add to the list Six Apart and Red Envelope, which proudly announced two years of uptime just before the power went out, David Geller pointed out on his WhatCounts blog.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Former Seattleite Corey Lewis emailed from San Francisco to point out a Valleywag item about alleged trouble at an SF server facility that a lot of these companies use, but the bigger problem was the result of an electrical line failure.

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July 24, 2007 2:13 PM

More details on Jim Gray's disappearance

Posted by Brier Dudley

Wired published a long and thorough recap of the search for Microsoft researcher Jim Gray, including new details about the support offered by people such as Bill Gates and Sergey Brin.

Most interesting to me were details about his boat -- it was lightweight and had flooded in the past. The article includes informed speculation by marine search expert Bob Bilger about how quickly it could have sank if Gray hit a log or other debris:

Though Gray was never interested in racing, his boat -- a C&C 40 -- was built for speed, with a lightweight hull, an unshielded propeller, and an 8,000-pound lead keel for stability. These features make boats like Tenacious graceful and maneuverable in the hands of a skilled sailor like Gray. But they leave the boat vulnerable to damage from heavy objects in the water. Bilger estimates that if a log had opened a hole in the hull that was 6 inches or more in diameter, Tenacious would have taken on a thousand gallons of water a minute. "I can picture a million scenarios that would have put a hole in the bottom," he says, "with enough water coming in that Jim had no way of shutting it down, slowing it up, or fixing it."

I wrote about Gray in February.

In retrospect, I should have gone to San Francisco and reported the story from there, but I was getting lots of good information from relatives (like the tidbit about swimming past the Santa Cruz breakwater). It also still seemed possible then that Gray would turn up at any moment.

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July 24, 2007 12:01 AM

New TiVo HD: Good for AMZN, bad for MSFT

Posted by Brier Dudley

The price of a high-definition TiVo box is dropping substantially.

Today, the company is announcing the $300 TiVo HD with a 160 gigabyte hard drive that's to be available starting in August. Until now the only HD option from TiVo was the 250 gigabyte Series 3 model that lists for $800 but is widely available for about $600.

The TiVo HD has the same connections (including HDMI) as the Series 3, but it lacks the fancier display and the THX-certified output of the higher end model.


TiVo

The TiVo HD will work with Amazon.com's Unbox video dowloading service.

Microsoft's Xbox 360 also downloads and records high-definition video and starts at $300 as well. (Update: Record isn't the right term; it can store downloaded material but doesn't record off the air TV. It can also play recorded TV stored on a Media Center PC elsewhere in the house).

Microsoft also sells high-definition video downloads, which aren't yet available for the TiVo HD. TiVo also won't immediately activate the HD downloading capability, but it's in the works, said Jim Denney, vice president of product marketing.

There isn't much rush. The device works with Amazon.com's Unbox video downloading service, which doesn't yet offer HD downloads. Still, I'll bet TiVo will sell a ton of the new devices and in turn boost Unbox.

Also in the works, but not ready yet, is the option of expanding the TiVo HD's storage capacity with an external hard drive. The box has a fast eSata port but it won't work until TiVo provides a software upgrade. Creative Series 3 users have figured out a hack to add external drives, Denney noted, but the hack won't work on the TiVo HD.

Denney said TiVo plans to allow external drives but isn't ready yet:

"That is certainly our intention. We're working through some last minute issues with some of our vendors to make sure everything is lined up."

TiVo also competes with set-top boxes offered by cable companies and PCs running Microsoft's Media Center software, both of which can record HD content.

Media Centers were pretty competitive with the Series 3 on price -- you could go either way for about $800, and Microsoft doesn't charge a monthly service fee like TiVo.

Vista Media Centers should also get traction this fall as new and cheaper video cards and systems with HDMI connectors appear, unless people decide they can get by with a $300 TiVo HD.

Of course, both systems could be obsolete in a few years, when more TVs are likely to be sold with ethernet jacks and wireless systems for connecting straight to the Internet.

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July 23, 2007 7:05 PM

Vint Cerf on Google spectrum and the new "Die Hard"

Posted by Brier Dudley

The Internet can sometimes feel intimidating and even dangerous, but I'm glad to report that the guy who got the thing started is very nice and approachable.

Vint Cerf is also funny -- early on he had a T-shirt made that said "IP on everything."

Cerf, a key architect of the network and its military predecessor, now works at Google as a telecom policy expert and traveling sage who regularly visits the company's offices around the world. (Technically, he's vice president and "chief Internet evangelist.")

Today he was speaking at Google's Kirkland office before heading north to Vancouver for the GeoWeb conference on the intersection of the Web and geographic information systems.

I was one of the local reporters Google invited to meet with Cerf before his talk. (Interestingly, Google also invited Microsoft blogger Dare Obasanjo to interview him.)

In hiring Cerf, 64, Google is following the same path Microsoft did when it began hiring old lions such as Gordon Bell and Jim Gray, whose early research built its industry.

They're more than figureheads, though, and Cerf's experience with regulating emerging networks is particularly useful now that Google's trying to enter the telecommunications business and bidding on new spectrum the government is auctioning off this year.

I asked whether Google will be known primarily as a telecom company in five or 10 years. Cerf said it's still unclear what Google would do with wireless spectrum if it wins the auction.

"How would we use that and what business model would we apply? That's still very much a fluid discussion. I think we'd like to have multiple business models to choose among in any case."

What's going to be Google's biggest challenge if it moves into the telecommunications space?

"If we were to, for example, win the 22 MHz capacity or something like that on a national scale, then the biggest challenge there would be to figure out the most effective way to make use of that capacity. Are there third party arrangements we should consider, is there a wholesale model, do we actually run the service, do we cooperate with someone else [making] joint investments in infrastructure? All of those are questions that have got be answered. But I really don't see that as our biggest challenge. Our biggest challenge is to continue to evolve the search engine capability and our ability to serve up advertising information which is useful."

How will Google manage all these different fronts that it's opening up? Telecommunications is a complicated business.

"You may be presuming something about what we will do should we in fact win this particular spectrum auction. I would be careful not to jump to any conclusions about what we will do if we have the rights to radiate in that frequency band. There are all kinds of ways of exercising that right. One of them is to build your own facilities. But there might be other answers that don't require us to do that."

Like lease capacity?

"Be a wholesaler of that capacity, there are a variety of business models. I'm not aware that any conclusions that have been reached at this point about what the optimal choice might be. For all I know it might differ from one area to another -- there's a different model for urban vs. rural areas. I just don't know."

I'd thought about taking Cerf to see the new Bruce Willis movie, "Live Free or Die Hard." It's about a big attack on the Internet, with hackers taking down crucial parts of the network. But he'd already seen it.

"I have. It's the usual dramatic overstatement of vulnerability, although I will say that I am quite concerned about the potential hazards and vulnerability of the Internet as it exists today. There really are some serious problems there -- denial of service attacks using zombies that have been created by invasion of the operating system, often by means of a vector going through the browsers, which are too willing to download and execute random pieces of Java code and have too much access to the right resources of the computer so that these Java code things can actually exploit, install trojan horses and things. It's all pretty terrible."

So will the nation's crucial systems be brought down someday by a disgruntled former Department of Defense employee?

"I really don't think that that's likely to be the effect. You look at the worst case recent problem -- that earthquake that severed some of the cables in Asia. Even there, though it was awful, there was very rapid recovery.... So the Internet's actually been remarkably resilient in spite of all the things that are happening to it. I've been surprised at that."

What does Cerf think about broadband service in the U.S., the country where this amazing network was developed?

"It's embarrassing in some respects that we haven't found a more effective way of bringing broadband services. I'm even concerned about the broadband that is available.... It's not as fast as some of the other services in other countries -- you can get a gigabit per second in Japan, full duplex for 8700 yen a month. It almost made me want to move to Kyoto."

I also found out that Cerf and I have a very indirect personal connection. I mentioned that my grandfather helped build an early defense network, the Distant Early Warning radar system in Alaska and Canada that was created in the 1950s to watch for a Soviet attack. Cerf lit up and said that he was inspired to enter the field as a teenager in 1958, when he saw an enormous "SAGE" computer in California used to manage the network.

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July 23, 2007 1:56 PM

Redmond's newest software company: HP

Posted by Brier Dudley

Hewlett-Packard has had people in Redmond forever, working with Microsoft on things like drivers.

With the acquisition of Opsware today, it's also a pretty big software company in Redmond.

Opsware acquired a 40-person team in Redmond when it acquired Rendition Networks in 2004. Then it added another 45 when it bought iConclude in March.

Opsware has four years left on its lease of a 12,000 square-foot facility in the Willows Road area, according to its 2006 annual report.

I've asked HP for details on its Redmond plans and will update when I hear back from them.

UPDATE: HP isn't saying yet what will happen to the Redmond office, or how many people it employs in the area.

"The future plans for the Redmond site has not yet been determined at this time,'' spokeswoman Jean Kondo said via email.

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July 23, 2007 11:08 AM

SecondSpace launches with cash flow, A-list team

Posted by Brier Dudley

Actually it's hard to call it a launch.

Second Space, the Bellevue startup, has been operating its first two Web sites for a year, generating more than $1 million, before it disclosed its game plan today.

SecondSpace has a team of 32 building a Web services platform targeting people who own, rent or hope to acquire "second spaces" such as vacation homes and timeshare properties.

Founder and Chief Executive Anil Pereira, an early manager at Verisign, said there are 45 million to 50 million people in the U.S. who own property in addition to their primary home.

The first two sites built on the platform are ResortScape.com, focused on "destination communities," and LandWatch.com, a site geared toward "rural retreats" such as ranches.

Both sites include real estate listings, local community information for visitors and landowners and ads for service providers such as maintenance and landscaping companies.

These sites made sense to me because my first newspaper job was at the Sequim Gazette, a newspaper that served a similar function for people who planned to live there when they retired.

Those out-of-towners received the paper by mail to keep tabs on the community and connect with service providers through the paper's ads. When they finally moved to Sequim, the paper informed them of local events and activities.

That's exactly what SecondSpace plans to do with its sites, which will be supported by ads, listings and subscriptions. To start, Landwatch is charging $50 per month for listings and Resortwatch isn't charging at all while it builds up the site.

When I asked who SecondSpace is competing with, Pereira said he sees no major competitors, only some niche Web sites that don't get a lot of traffic. It seems to me that its first two sites, at least, will compete mostly with community newspapers.

That's just the start for SecondSpace. It's also planning to use the platform to build sites for people whose "second spaces" include boats, RVs and in-city homes, such as condominiums.

The condo market is also an entry point for SecondSpace's expansion into international markets, since many buyers of condos in cities such as New York and Vancouver, B.C., are residents of Europe and Asia.

SecondSpace raised $6.6 million last July from Ignition Partners and an undisclosed partner that also formed a multiyear commercial relationship with the company.

I wonder if that investor is Plum Creek, the Seattle based timber and real estate company that's one of the largest landowners in the country. Plum Creek is the sort of company that would use SecondSpace sites to market land it's converting from timberlands to recreational and residential property. Plum Creek's vice president of real estate, Russell Hagen, is on the SecondSpace board. Other board members are Ignition partner John Connors and Colleen Brown, Fisher Communications' president and chief executive.

Pereira said it's likely to seek another financing round this fall that would carry the company through to profitability. It plans to use the money to build the next set of sites, invest in its platform and expand beyond the U.S.

Among the key players at the company are developers who worked on HomeAdvisor, a Microsoft online real estate service that was going to be spunoff similar to Expedia but fizzled after the dot-com downturn.

Alok Sinha, co-founder and development manager of HomeAdvisor, is now co-founder and CTO of SecondSpace. Between HomeAdvisor and the startup, he was a product unit manager on Windows Driver Kits and MSN Mobile.

SecondSpace architect Delane Hewett also worked on HomeAdvisor.

Management also includes Amazon.com veterans Satbir Khanuja, the startup's marketing VP, and Gary Cowan, product management director.

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July 17, 2007 10:20 AM

Casual games week

Posted by Brier Dudley

I could have written 40 more column inches on the casual games business, the subject of Monday's column.

One thing I absolutely should have explained better is the downloads vs. sales statistics, which I flubbed in my characterization of Sandlot's "Cake Mania" sales. The game was downloaded 40 million times last year, but that doesn't mean 40 million people paid Sandlot $20 apiece.

The usual model with casual games is to offer free trial versions. About 1 percent or 2 percent of people who download and play the games end up paying for the full version. Some local companies say their conversion rates are higher on good games, maybe approaching 5 percent.

Seattle's PopCap Games pioneered the downloadable games model with its breakout success, "Bejeweled." Here's a PopCap piece we did last year with a little history.

That's one way casual games companies make money. They also sell ads that support the free versions of their games. Some also sell subscriptions or corporate sponsorships that fund the free plays or even different levels of a game. RealNetworks in particular has been aggressively exploring so-called interstitial ads that appear between game levels. WildTangent has experimented with the mix, adding micropayments, just like the quarters you'd pay to play arcade games.

Casual games also sell well on mobile phones and increasingly on handheld devices and game consoles.

Ben Romano is covering the casual games conference this week. I was going to cover it and would love to be there, but I'm frantically trying to work my way to the next level in "Remodeling Mania." (I'd give that game two stars -- it's fun for a while, but it gets tedious fast, takes over your life and never seems to end.)

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July 13, 2007 10:48 AM

Jobster's Jason Goldberg re-emerging

Posted by Brier Dudley

After being lambasted online during a messy restructuring over the holidays, Jobster's co-founder and chief executive has had an uncharacteristically low profile.

That's changing now that the restructuring is starting to pay off. Profitability is in sight, and Jason Goldberg is talking to the press again.


Thomas James Hurst / Seattle Times

Jason Goldberg, co-founder and chief executive of Jobster, the Seattle-based jobs site.

Goldberg told me today that the company's having a party today to celebrate profitability in its first line of business, the premium recruiting service for employers started two and a half years ago.

That's helping fund new lines of business, including a public recruiting network. The company is also launching new services, including a free profile search service launched today, new Jobster applications for Facebook and a platform business that will enable companies to build their own recruiting social networks using Jobster components.

Overall profitability could happen if priorities were adjusted, but for now Jobster's reinvesting revenue, Goldberg said: "We're eyeing profitability very shortly.''

According to Goldberg, the second quarter was the best in Jobster's history and the company expects sales to grow 60 percent this year, even as expenses are down 50 percent. The latter results from the restructuring, a decision to cut field and phone sales groups and rely instead on less expensive online sales.

In January the company cut 40 percent of its staff, trimming it to 66 people. Goldberg drew heat, especially from tech bloggers for not acknowledging the pending changes on a company blog, which was instead upbeat and often covering relatively trivial topics.

Employment dropped further after the first layoffs, but it's now climbing again. The company employs 85 now, including three people who were laid off in the restructuring but returned after the dust settled.

The year before, in 2006, Jobster sales grew 400 percent, he said. The company has also slowed its burn rate.

Jobster stood out in part because of its remarkable funding. It raised $48 million from investors including Ignition Partners, Mayfield Fund, Trinity Ventures and the venture arm of London publisher Reed Elsevier. Goldberg said the company still has plenty in the bank.

"We're confident in our business,'' he said. "The numbers are really what speak for thesmelves. As a company we've rebounded form the restructuring.''

He also continues blogging. So far the cute pictures of his puppy haven't drawn much flak, but things have changed a lot in the last eight months.

Idealistic notions about corporate blogs revealing everything happening inside a company have given way to more realistic expectations of what a chief executive will and won't say online (without a pseudonym, at least). The Web 2.0 cheerleaders also seem less inclined to single out scapegoats now that skepticism of the whole phenomenon is in vogue.

Goldberg also seems humbled by the experience. It took a half-hour before I could get him to talk about himself and use "I" instead of "we" in a sentence.

"It's understandable that when times have been not as clear for everybody that I have personally taken some of the lumps for it,'' he said.

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July 12, 2007 1:34 PM

Apple to copy Zune?

Posted by Brier Dudley

I wonder what Apple fans will think of the next iPod if it mimics the Zune's wireless-media sharing feature.

That's a direction suggested by a newly surfaced Apple patent application. Macsimum News dug it up and CNET chased the story today.

Now, if Apple, Microsoft or someone else would blend Wi-Fi, touchscreen navigation and DRM-free song sharing, then we'd be getting somewhere. I'd like one with a 64 gigabyte solid-state drive?

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July 11, 2007 5:02 PM

An intern's view of Bill Gates' house

Posted by Brier Dudley

Bill Gates annually hosts a dinner for Microsoft interns, some of whom end up describing his Medina mansion in blogs.

Here's an excerpt from the blog of Robert Smith, an intern in the Windows Embedded team, whose writing was called out by Gearlog:

Going down Bill's driveway is like arriving at Jurassic Park. The driveway is long, windy, goes steeply down, and is just covered in plant life. We passed a 15-20 car garage on the way down. I'm not sure if it was Bill's private one or not as I didn't see any really cool cars in it. At the end of the driveway stands the entrance to Bill's house.

We got off the bus, grabbed our nametags, and headed in. We headed down this 5-ish story staircase to the main reception area outside. While walking down, we all took in as much of the house as we could. It's really just crazy. The whole house is built out of this beautiful orangey wood. We passed his movie theater (complete with Now Showing posters) and a room that looked to be completely filled with couches and pillows. It's all really nice.

We finally made it outside, and took in his back yard. The landscaping is just insane. There's grass that looks like someone went at it with scissors and there are tons of plants arranged and taken care of perfectly. We were pretty much given free roam of the place, so we checked out his dock, his beach (with sand imported from Hawaii), hot tub, and boat. He's also got this area of his house where a stream runs down from under the house into Lake Washington. One of the employees said it's probably man-made, but it's really cool. We also saw the indoor / outdoor pool that has an underwater grate that allows you to swim between the two sections.


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July 11, 2007 4:53 PM

Microsoft bosses disclosing stock holdings

Posted by Brier Dudley

Execs are filing their end of fiscal year stock holding reports. The reports to the SEC disclose how much Microsoft stock they hold.

Today's batch:

Kevin Johnson: 622,612 shares

Brad Smith: 255,299 shares

Lisa Brummel: 159,382 shares plus 614 in a 401(k)

Frank Brod: 55,184 shares

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July 11, 2007 4:08 PM

A rant about Microsoft tipping

Posted by Brier Dudley

This "rant" was submitted to The Seattle Times Rant and Rave feature:

To the cheap-o employees at Microsoft who constantly order pizza and never tip the drivers! Pizza delivery drivers make their money off of tips not from the minimum wage they receive. Microsoft orders hundreds of dollars worth of pizza at a time and deliberately do not tip the drivers. I can see it happening occasionally but every time a delivery is made? Come on you millionaires share a little of the love and stop acting like these drivers are beneath you throwing them a few extra bucks their way. It's no different than leaving a tip at a restaurant. A SERVICE is being provided!!

Maybe the drivers would cut the 'softies some slack if they knew how Microsoft stock has performed the past couple of months.

Or maybe the rant was submitted by someone in Google's black ops PR department.

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July 11, 2007 12:57 PM

Zillow boss on Web 2.0 "commies"

Posted by Brier Dudley

Zillow Chief Executive Rich Barton was in good form today at the second Seattle Lunch 2.0 event, which Zillow hosted for the local tech community.

Casual in cutoff jeans and a T-shirt, the former Expedia boss dropped some juicy anecdotes for the crowd at Zillow's offices overlooking Elliott Bay from the 46th floor of the Wells Fargo building downtown.

Ripping on Web 1.0 business models and raising money just to spend it on traffic acquisition, he laughed about how back in the day, AOL told Expedia it would charge $500 million for cornerstone placement on the portal.

Later someone in the audience said he was scared of Web 2.0 companies that start as community-driven services, gather users' personal information and then morph into ad-supported businesses.

Barton called them former "commie" sites, using a term that he said he and Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer would apply to community sites with no business model.

In meetings in Redmond, they used to call Google a commie site, but it has shown how a company can gracefully transition into a business venture, he said.

Barton kept the riff going, saying that Wikipedia is another commie site and Craigslist at least looks like one.

Others asked if Seattle compares favorably to Silicon Valley for startups (Barton said yes) and what makes companies attractive to a venture capitalist. Barton, who is also a partner in Benchmark Capital in Menlo Park, Calif., said he's more interested in young companies' growth curve than their total users.

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July 11, 2007 11:05 AM

CIOs more interested in BI than security now, Goldman says

Posted by Brier Dudley

Business intelligence has risen to the top of CIO shopping lists but it's a complicated situation, Goldman Sachs said in a report today. An excerpt:

"Though business intelligence purchases remain a high priority, we are also cognizant that we may currently be in a period of peak interest -- and thus that the demand in the future may decelerate from here."

Yet it expects "brisk" consolidation in the BI sector "in the coming quarters and years" as BI vendors buy additional technology, companies consolidate market share and BI vendors are acquired by applications and infrastructure vendors.

Microsoft is positioned to take advantage of the mid-market segmen, which has the biggest growth potential, the firm said. It's going after the category with Office as the interface and three server products: SQL, SharePoint and the new PerformancePoint.

Bigger software companies are also looking for recurring revenue streams in acquisition targets they want to "strip mine," the report said:

Recent acquisitions in the software sector have brought recurring maintenance revenue stream into focus in assessing the strip-mining value of a company. We would expect to see further consolidation in the software sector and believe that potential acquirers are likely to remain focused on recurring revenue as a means to help evaluate/finance these acquisitions.

The firm expects the overall software industry to grow 7.7 percent. Here's its outlook on other categories, which referenced IDC research:

• System infrastructure software accounts for 35 percent of total software spending and we forecast growth of 9 percent to $101 billion by 2010.
• Enterprise applications revenue accounts for 31 percent of total software spending and is forecast to grow to $101 billion in 2010, implying a compounded annual growth rate of 6.2 percent.
• Application development and deployment revenue accounts for 14 percent of total software spending and is forecast to grow to $41 billion in 2010 implying a compounded growth of 7.4 percent.
• Desktop applications revenue accounts for 12 percent of total software spending and is forecast to grow to $38 billion in 2010, implying a compounded growth of 9.4 percent.
• At $18 billion in 2005, database is expected to grow to $24 billion in 2010 with a 6.6 percent compounded growth and thus be one of the slowest-growing segments.

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July 11, 2007 10:23 AM

Forbes says Washington great for business

Posted by Brier Dudley

In a ranking of the best states for business that it published this morning, Forbes.com gushed about Washington.

The governor got in a quote, sent out a press release and cc'd her re-election campaign.

From the intro:

In Forbes.com's second annual Top States for Business, Virginia may be the top-ranked state for the second straight year, but Washington is the big story. The biggest mover (tied with Tennessee), rising from 12th to fifth place, Washington is also the only state to finish in the top five in three main categories (labor, regulatory environment and growth). And Washington's numbers are up across the board when you look both backward and at projections into the future.

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July 10, 2007 1:41 PM

TripHub books seat on Orbitz

Posted by Brier Dudley

Orbitz apparently isn't bothered by TripHub's Expedia pedigree.

The Chicago-based online travel company is incorporating TripHub's group travel planning system to its site.

"Whether its a buddy trip to Las Vegas or a family reunion in Orlando, Orbitz now will help groups communicate and coordinate what can be complex travel plans," said Orbitz Worldwide Chief Executive Steve Barnhart said in the release.

TribHub was founded in 2005 by Josh Herst, a Microsoft veteran who helped launch Expedia in 1996. Now he's chief executive of the seven-person, Madrona-backed startup based in downtown Seattle.

Herst wouldn't disclose terms of the Orbitz deal, but his company makes money from selling ads, earning commissions on travel booked through its service and using its platform to provide private label services.

Orbitz is the third platform partner, following Alaska Airlines and Spokane-based People to People Student Ambassador Programs.

What will the Orbitz deal do for TripHub?

"We expect our customer base will grow substantially,'' Herst said.

We also reported in today's paper (sixth item) that another Seattle travel startup, ticket price tracking service Yapta, raised $2.3 million, bringing its total funding to $3 million.

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July 9, 2007 4:30 PM

Dreamliner and Mercedes CLS: Separated at birth?

Posted by Brier Dudley

I guess the swoopy look is in.

When I saw the Dreamliner and the paint scheme Boeing chose for its debut, I immediately thought of the CLS. Check it out:

Dreamliner:


Mike Siegel / Seattle Times

CLS:


Daimler Chrysler

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July 9, 2007 2:45 PM

Have a free beer on Adobe in Seattle

Posted by Brier Dudley

As part of a road trip pitching its new AIR -- Adobe Integrated Runtime -- the software company's offering free beer and tutorials in a big red bus outside of Elysian Fields.

The mobile developer conference begins a 9:15 a.m. on Tuesday and runs into the evening.

If that's too early for an Immortal IPA, the company's also pouring Red Bull and coffee.

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July 9, 2007 2:07 PM

The Xbox 365 approaches, slowly

Posted by Brier Dudley

Dean Takahashi said Microsoft is finally testing the smaller, cooler 65 nanometer chips that have been expected for years.

Maybe the new chips are part of Peter Moore's keynote at the E3 game conference tomorrow. Some think a price cut is also coming, so maybe he'll be pitching smaller chips, smaller prices and the bigger warranty.

But I wouldn't think he'd say much about the hardware code-name that Dean dropped -- Falcon -- since it's already a brand used by other game machines.

Dean speculated the new machines will be available this fall, which is a safe guess. Microsoft said last week that it has re-engineered the consoles, 65 nanometer chips for the Xbox were due by May and Microsoft said in January that the Xbox line would be refreshed with new IPTV capabilities by the 2007 holiday season.

The chip manufacturers said last year that they'd start producing the 65 nanometer chips for the Xbox in the first quarter of 2007. Here's an April 2006 story with more details.

What's interesting is the timing. Are the retooling costs hidden in the $1 billion red ring of death writedown announced last week? The migration to smaller chips was planned, so that doesn't seem like it should go into the extraordinary writedown category.

Also, what took so long to upgrade to the new chips?

Was Microsoft waiting for chip producers, or was it holding back on the next iteration because it wasn't meeting its version one sales targets?

P.S. I don't know if they'll call the updated consoles 365s, after the chips, like Ferraris named after their engine displacement. I just made that up.

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July 6, 2007 9:46 AM

Time for something completely different

Posted by Brier Dudley

I've got to put down the iPhone and head to Tri-Cities to cover this breakthrough: Rearchers at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory figured out how to use "ultrasonic backscattering" to track the quality of fermenting beer.

From a Technology Review story:

To employ the team's system, the brewer would first have to run a controlled experiment to calibrate the ultrasound for tracking cell growth and concentration. This requires finding a strong relationship between the changes in a perfect batch as it ages and the changes in the sound strength and frequency as a signal backscatters off that batch's aging microbes. Over its life cycle, each microbe will scatter the ultrasound signal in a characteristic way because, as the microbe grows, it will come to have different mechanical properties. The microbes will vibrate differently depending on how big they are, how much they weigh, and how they are clustered with other particles nearby. Once the sound signature of a flawless fermentation is obtained, that information can then be used to measure and perfect future batches as they ferment.

How do you define the perfect batch?

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July 3, 2007 12:49 PM

iPhone: Eight gigs outselling four gigs by a mile?

Posted by Brier Dudley

I just received a call on my iPhone from the AT&T store where I bought it on Friday.

I don't think the caller knew that I've written about the device -- it was a standard customer service call that the store told buyers they would receive.

The caller apologized for the long activation process and asked if I had any other concerns.

I said I was disappointed that the store required people to buy $50 worth of accessories to get the phone. He apologized for that as well, and said it was the result of a "miscommunication to the store." Then he credited my account for the cost of the accessories and said I could keep them free of charge. (I still plan to return them).

Since I had him on the line, I asked about the stock. He said there were a few of the $499 4 gigabyte models left in the store, but none of the $599 8 gigabyte models. The eights have been outselling the fours by 5 to 1, he said.

That's not reporting and it doesn't mean the same thing is happening nationally, but it's an intriguing tidbit. I'd be curious to know if Apple's take is bigger on the higher-capacity models.

The company's expected to have a profit margin of more than 55 percent on the iPhone, according to an iSuppli teardown analysis of the 8 gigabyte model, a revelation that's believed to have boosted Apple stock today.

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July 2, 2007 3:40 PM

The iPhone comment that made my day

Posted by Brier Dudley

Among the comments on my iPhone stuff, my favorite so far is from "KG" who suggested I'm an "inner city fashion technology junkie."


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July 2, 2007 12:49 PM

Gates enters gay and lesbian publishing business

Posted by Brier Dudley

The flap over Microsoft and gay civil rights seems like ancient history.

Today, Bill Gates is part of a group investing in PlanetOut, a San Francisco company that publishes magazines and runs Web sites such as Gay.com and PlanetOut.com, the "leading gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender online community."

PlanetOut just notified the SEC that it's selling $26.2 million worth of stock to five investment groups, including Cascade Investment, Bill Gates' personal investment company in Kirkland. Other investors entering the "definitive purchase agreement in connection with a private placement of common stock" are Special Situations Funds, SF Capital Partners, PAR Investment Partners LP and Allen & Company LLC.

Bill came across as a voice of reason during the 2005 brouhaha.

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July 2, 2007 10:52 AM

Ten thoughts about the iPhone

Posted by Brier Dudley

Here's my iPhone likes and dislikes list, amplifying today's column.

Five things I really like about the iPhone

1. Its touchscreen interface. Apple was a little ambitious with the virtual keyboard and the browser buttons are too small, but the basic controls are really impressive. Instead of forcing users to move through menus, the screen displays all the major functions as a set of widgets that you tap to use. Forget the scroll wheel -- it's much easier and more fun to sort through a digital music collection by tapping and flipping through CD cases with a swish of the finger. If Apple puts interface on standard iPods (and gives them more storage) it'll keep dominating the category.

2. Finally, an iPod with a speaker. I have never liked earbuds and always prefer to play music through speakers -- more BFR than Walkman. It's not high fidelity, but you can play songs on the iPhone loud and clear enough to use the device without headphones in a car or cubicle.

3. The software for handling photos is terrific, fixing a pain point on cellphones. It has a nice slideshow feature, but best of all is the button you tap to decide how to use photos stored on the device. It gives you four choices -- use as wallpaper, e-mail photo, assign to contact or cancel. Too bad the camera itself doesn't have more features.

4. The iPhone looks and feels great. It feels smooth and touchable and has a nice heft without being heavy. You can't compare it to Microsoft's Zune, but they both have a more satin feel than earlier music players. It's subjective, but I think it's past time to move past the shiny plastic look. I'll bet the next Macs and iPods will have the iPhone's style, with a mix of brushed metal, satin and piano black plastic and chrome accents.

5. Consumers will benefit from the halo effect the iPhone will have on the mobile device and phone industry. Most functions of the iPhone were developed and released earlier on other devices. But Apple blended and presented them in a way that improves the user experience, like a chef that figures out a better way to make mac and cheese. Other phone manufacturers are now under pressure to improve their software, add more features and simplify their interfaces.

Things I really don't like about the iPhone

1. The network is way too slow, and saying that you can use Wi-Fi instead is cop-out. When pressed on the network issue, Steve Jobs has said people can just jump onto faster Wi-Fi networks, but that's utopian. Sure, you'll use the faster Wi-Fi at home, the office and your favorite coffee shop. But it's not an adequate substitute for AT&T service when you're mobile.

The iPhone does a nice job transferring from the AT&T network to Wi-Fi networks when they're available, but they usually aren't. Jobs may be able to walk around Palo Alto and hop from network to network, but it doesn't work reliably in Seattle and most other places. More often than not, people lock down their home networks for security reasons. Networks like the ones at Starbucks stores require additional monthly fees. Free networks are scattered and have varying levels of service. I couldn't get my iPhone to connect at all to the Bremerton ferry's Wi-Fi service on Saturday.

2. Durability is a question mark. I'm nervous about carrying a $600 phone that's half covered in glass. Its power and vibrate-mode buttons don't seem especially sturdy. Some people will be bothered that the glass front is constantly smudged by fingertips, especially since they have to hold it against their cheek to use the phone. Mine already has a few scratches on the chrome bezel and brushed metal back after just two days of use.

3. Battery life isn't adequate for the iPhone to be my primary mobile phone. I expect a mobile phone to last at least a full work day. I'd rather have a single-function phone that only needs a charge every few days than a multifunction device that can't stray far from an outlet or a car charger. I haven't experimented with power settings to maximize battery life, but if you have to shut off all the fancy stuff why bother to carry such an expensive phone?

4. The network lock-in leaves you feeling shanghaied and limits the appeal of the iPhone as a portable computer or iPod replacement. Apple and AT&T are telling consumers the iPhone is worth the huge investment because it's a phone, a computer and an iPod, but Web browsing on the network is slow and the iPod gets no benefit at all from the connectivity.

On top of a $60 to $220 monthly fee, two-year commitment and $500 to $600 device cost, the $36 activation fee seems like a gouge, not to mention the $50 worth of accessories forced on buyers at at least one AT&T store.

The partnership between Apple and AT&T may work well for introducing Apple to the phone business, but it's also providing cover for some serious issues with the iPhone such as the lack of access for application developers and the inability of the browser to properly display Flash Web sites. Pressed on the developer question, Jobs has pointed toward AT&T and its security concerns. Both companies need to be more transparent about challenges and direction.

5. Apple's smug attitude will keep a lot of people from even considering this device. Individuals I've dealt with at the company seem very nice, but the institution exudes a better-than-you attitude that I find repelling.

I'm not bitter that Apple gave iPhones to Walt Mossberg and David Pogue first, but I am amazed that Apple gets a pass for its attitude and controlling behavior. It acts just like a politician who refuses to participate in open debates and expects voters to decide based on slick ads and a few handpicked appearances in sympathetic venues. That may be today's reality but we shouldn't stand for it.

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July 2, 2007 10:35 AM

The iPhone, a good thing and a bad thing

Posted by Brier Dudley

Sales were good.

Goldman Sachs is estimating that Apple sold at least 700,000 units since Friday, double its previous estimate. It also upped its forecasts to 5.25 million this year, up from 4 million, and 12 million in 2008, up from 10.5 mllion.

From its note to clients today:

Our checks show that better-than-expected supply and mix throughout the weekend was met by a frenzy of demand, driving our unit, ASP, and margin expectations for iPhone higher.

Activation was bad. It took AT&T nearly nine hours to activate the phone I bought Friday evening. Others had similar problems and the issue is becoming the Monday iPhone story.

The registration/activation process seemed smooth until a screen appeared saying that activation would take awhile and AT&T would send an e-mail when it was finished.

I expectantly checked my e-mail for an hour and gave up around 11:30 p.m. The activation wasn't done until after 7 a.m. the next morning.

AT&T ought to refund the $36 activation fee it charged customers.

I had mentioned the activation process in today's column but it was cut when we trimmed it for length. It also seemed like a predictable anomaly -- hordes of people were all registering at once, and I'd mentioned earlier in the blog that AT&T's retail system was bogging down in the rush.

Now the question is whether the system can handle the ongoing and presumably steadier flow of new customers. We'll have to see what happens after the next big batch is delivered to people who didn't get them in stores Friday.

Goldman still expects Apple stock to hit $135, despite concerns about the activation process. From its note:

If not resolved as iPhone sales ramp, early support issues with AT&T could degrade the overall user experience with the phone and slow sales.

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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.