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November 30, 2007 4:26 PM

Microsoft buys Toutonghi's Seattle startup

Posted by Brier Dudley

Microsoft's apparently still enthusiastic about the work of Mike Toutonghi, a former distinguished engineer who initiated the Media Center version of Windows before leaving for startup world.

With support from some early Microsoft executives, Toutonghi in 2004 started Vizrea, a mobile phone image sharing service that never really took off.

Part of the problem was that it was geared toward advanced phones that are only lately getting traction.

After a big pullback last year, Vizrea was rechristened WebFives in May and positioned as a sort of social network for sharing videos and music, as well as photos, from a greater variety of mobile devices.

On Friday, Toutonghi notified WebFives users that the service will stop at the end of the year because the company was purchased by Microsoft. It sounds like some of its technology for uploading and sharing photoes and videos captured on phones could be added to Microsoft's online services suite.

From Friday's letter to WebFives users:

While WebFives has pioneered some great technologies, including automatic upload of content from mobile phones and PCs, high-quality video sharing services, and automatic RSS feeds for everyone, our next challenge will be to help Microsoft incorporate the best of those technologies into its already comprehensive suite of products and services. I encourage you to look at MSN Spaces and/or Windows Live services as an alternative to WebFives for serving your video, photo, music sharing, and blogging needs on the Internet.

WebFives had a handful of employees in both Seattle and Prague.

I'll post more details on the acquisition as I get them.

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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.