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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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December 21, 2007 12:00 AM

Disney looks to Seattle for Internet CTO

Posted by Brier Dudley

Cementing its longtime Seattle presence, Walt Disney Internet Group named local tech veteran A.D. "Bud" Albers its new chief technology officer.

Continue reading this post ...

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December 20, 2007 11:55 AM

Happy holidays!

Posted by Brier Dudley

I can't wait to play with our new blog tools but I'm taking a break until next year. Talk to you then, Brier

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December 18, 2007 5:03 AM

Build a company in a weekend

Posted by Brier Dudley

Startup Weekend, a mini-conference where attendees create and start a company in a weekend, is coming to Seattle on Jan. 25-27 for a session at Adobe's Fremont campus.

Registration is $20, and participants receive shares of the company they start. Startup Weekend, an organization run by Boulder, Colo., entrepreneur Andrew Hyde, gets 5 percent of the company. He's held similar events in 13 other cities since July.

A group of Seattle tech types has been doing the same thing on a less formal basis.

Maybe it's time for a battle of the bands thing, or Iron Chef Startup.

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December 17, 2007 8:50 PM

Grungy new Web site smells like Seattle spirit

Posted by Brier Dudley

Maybe I'm sentimental, but I really like, a new Web site and online music store paying homage to Seattle's grunge years.

It's a one-person venture by Rick Lambert, program director at KNDD/The End from 1991 through 1996.

The site has info on more than 50 Northwest artists, including their CD libraries and track listings, and of course a selection of flannel shirts at "Ye Olde Flannel Shoppe."

If it takes off, perhaps Lambert could use the proceeds to resurrect The Crocodile Cafe.

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December 17, 2007 2:16 PM

LA Times rips Gates Foundation

Posted by Brier Dudley

It's good that watchdogs are keeping their eye on the Gates Foundation and that thoughtful experts are monitoring the overall benefits of global health philanthropies, but Sunday's LA Times story on the Gates Foundation was awfully sensational.

It basically says money the foundation is spending battling AIDS in Africa is distorting the continent's already poor healthcare system, drawing resources and luring desparately needed healthcare workers to better-paying jobs funded by grants. It also questions priorities, noting that people are still dying of hunger -- some are so hungry they throw up the AIDS medicine the foundation is funding.

These are interesting questions and there is great on-the-ground reporting, but the story uses a terrible anecdote of an infant's death to make its point.

Here's an excerpt from the story, headlined "Unintended victims of Gates Foundation generosity":

There was no oxygen tube for Mankuebe. She asphyxiated for lack of a second valve. It would have cost $35.

The hospital, with no staff to move Mankuebe's remains to the morgue, placed her body on a shelf near the delivery room while her father arranged for burial. The tiny corpse was swaddled in a baby blanket. A handwritten death notice was stuck to the blanket with a used hypodermic needle.

The Gates Foundation, endowed by the personal fortunes of the Microsoft Corp. chairman, his wife and Berkshire Hathaway Inc. Chairman Warren E. Buffett, has given $650 million to the Global Fund. But the oxygen valve fell outside the priorities of the fund's grants to Lesotho.

Every day, nurses say, one or two babies at the hospital die as Mankuebe did -- bypassed in a place where AIDS overshadows other concerns.

That's a low blow, because it implies the foundation is responsible because it didn't spend $35 for a valve.

The lack of a valve in a chronically underfunded African hospital isn't a smoking gun. Maybe I missed something in the story, but it didn't say the valve would have been there if not for the priority placed on AIDS work because of the Gates money. So how does that make Mankuebe an "unintended victim"?

The story actually says the foundation gave the child a chance to come into the world, because it had earlier saved the child's mother, not to mention all the children saved by its work on malaria and other critical problems.

It does a good job showing that the AIDS work is stressing Africa's healthcare system, and it's a reminder that the foundation is still young and has issues to sort out, such as the side effects of its giant footprint.

It's also good for the public to know about the foundation's challenges and outcomes, intended and unintended. With all the money being spent, there's going to be some dirt.

I'm glad there are newspapers with the resources to do this kind of reporting, but I wish the story had more context.

Also, if the goal is to pressure the foundation to spend more on basic healthcare delivery in places like Africa, I'm not sure the best route is to suggest Mankuebe died because of bad decisions made in Seattle.

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December 14, 2007 11:37 AM

Bill Gates on "skills you need to succeed"

Posted by Brier Dudley

In a guest column provided to the BBC, the Microsoft chairman shared tips on how to succeed now that technology has turned most everyone into an "information worker."

Math and science are important, but so are communication skills. Gates also said he also values "a passion for ongoing learning."

An excerpt:

A lot of people assume that creating software is purely a solitary activity where you sit in an office with the door closed all day and write lots of code.

This isn't true at all.

Software innovation, like almost every other kind of innovation, requires the ability to collaborate and share ideas with other people, and to sit down and talk with customers and get their feedback and understand their needs.

I also place a high value on having a passion for ongoing learning. When I was pretty young, I picked up the habit of reading lots of books.

It's great to read widely about a broad range of subjects. Of course today, it's far easier to go online and find information about any topic that interests you.

The timing's interesting -- the feel-good piece appears the day after Norwegian browser-maker Opera asked the European Commission to open a new front in its antitrust case against Microsoft -- but so far the piece is drawing lots of praise in the comment section.

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December 13, 2007 3:17 PM

Amazon buys J.K. Rowling fairy tales, posting them now

Posted by Brier Dudley

Talk about a big thank you: just spent about $4 million buying one of seven handmade copies of J.K. Rowling's "The Tales of Beedle the Bard" at a London auction.

Rowling auctioned the book of "wizarding fairy tales" that she mentioned in "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" to support The Children's Voice, a charitable campaign for institutionalized children.

Amazon's "incredibly excited" about the deal and has put a prominent link at the center of its homepage, directing visitors to scans of the book.

Here's Amazon's description of the book -- which it isn't selling:

"The Tales of Beedle the Bard is extensively illustrated and handwritten by the bard herself -- all 157 pages of it. It's bound in brown Moroccan leather and embellished with five hand-chased hallmarked sterling silver ornaments and mounted moonstones.

The company's adding reviews and more images right now.

When it's all scanned, perhaps it'll be put on public display somewhere in Seattle, like the Seattle Art Museum?

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December 13, 2007 12:00 AM

Kal Raman's learning startup stepping out

Posted by Brier Dudley

As it begins its second year of business, Bellevue-based is undergoing big changes.

In the last week or so, the ambitious startup changed its name to and launched a consumer-focused tutoring service. It lets tutors list their services and hosts online tutoring sessions on its platform, in exchange for a commission.

That's one of three components to the business hatched a year ago by Kal Raman, a former chief executive and senior vice president. The company has grown to about 100 people, roughly half in Bellevue and the rest in Chennai, India.

GlobalScholar also developed a learning management system that it's offering to school districts and governments. It sounds like a major customer deal will be announced shortly.

Finally, the company is developing educational search services, including "CollegeFinder," a university research tool that incorporates Microsoft's mapping technology.

The company has funding from Ignition Partners and Knowledge Universe, a network of education ventures led by Michael Milken, the former junk-bond tycoon whose late 1980s indictment led to a crackdown on insider trading.

Update: Milken's office didn't like the paragraph above and suggested that readers may infer that he was found guilty of insider trading. To be clear, Milken was indicted on 98 counts of fraud and racketeering in 1989 but reached a plea deal in 1990, admitting felony counts of conspiracy, securities and mail fraud, violating federal securities reporting requirements, filing false information with regulators and aiding the filing of a false tax return.

Milken's story is fascinating. He's recast himself as a philanthropist and been generous toward education.

Yet another contribution he made to society was galvanizing the public to address outrageous Wall Street behavior. Unfortunately, it didn't last and a few years after Milken's name faded from the headlines we had the Enron era and now we're back into it with the financial meltdown.

For Milken's side of the story, here's the link his office provided.

Here are a few stories we ran on Milken's effects on his firm, SEC settlement and punishment.

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December 12, 2007 5:42 PM

Tips for those who want a Wii for the holidays

Posted by Brier Dudley

Charlene Li, a Forrester media analyst, recently compiled a helpful list of tips for the holiday Wii-hunting season.

Among the tips: Register for Wiialerts, which sends e-mail alerts or messages to your cellphone when a batch becomes available at an online store, and go to stores like Toys R Us two to four hours before they open on a Sunday morning.

Don't give up too early. You get there with 20 people ahead of you in line. They tell you that employees have shared they have only 20 Wiis in stock. Don't leave yet! On Black Friday, I was at a GameStop in Stockton with family members who were 35 or so in line when only 20 Wiis were available. They didn't hand out vouchers, so they stood in line for an hour. As they snaked up to the front, people were leaving with only a game or two in hand, bypassing the chance to buy a Wii. Two family members got the last two Wiis. So you never know.

My suggestion for locals: Make friends with someone who works at Nintendo of America and finagle an invitation into the company store in Redmond.

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December 12, 2007 11:28 AM

Analysts say 3G iPhone due late '08

Posted by Brier Dudley

That's the word from Goldman Sachs, via AppleInsider, which reports that Apple's Asian suppliers are saying design of the next iPhone is nearly done and it will have the same form factor but with a different look and 3G capability.

New in the report is word from the same sources that the sputtering AppleTV product is being reworked and may include an LCD display. So does that mean it's morphing into a full-blown TV set, or will it have a small iPod-like (or Sideshow-like) display showing status and content and letting you control the device directly?

The report also notes there was little info about the rumored subnotebook -- Apple's Origami? -- and that it may be delayed because of design challenges.

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December 11, 2007 5:14 PM

Cozi lands big partners in Hasbro, Meredith

Posted by Brier Dudley

Seattle startup Cozi is getting major exposure from new deals with Hasbro and Meredith to produce and promote co-branded versions of its family organization software.

The companies pay Cozi to produce customized versions of the software featuring their brands, such as Hasbro's Mr. Potato Head and Meredith's Parents magazine. They also receive a portion of the ad space within Cozi, and in turn promote and help distribute Cozi's software.

Co-founder Robbie Cape today said he's expecting the partnerships to dramatically increase the number of Cozi users, which is now around 380,000 families. That's 10 times more than it had when I wrote about Cozi in February.

"These guys are delivering millions and millions of impressions about this new value that they want to bring to their families, so I think it's going to impact our base by an order of magnitude,'' he said.

Cozi's also adding new leadership with calendaring expertise -- Jeremy Jaech, veteran of Aldus, Visio, Microsoft and Trumba, is joining its board as chairman.

Cape said to expect more from Cozi soon.

"I'm quite hopeful that in the next month and a half there will be even more exciting things to report,'' he said.

Here's a screenshot of the Mr. Potato Head version of Cozi, which is offered via popup when you visit Hasbro's The co-branding is pretty discrete, and you can't customize the desktop with your choice of lips, eyes and ears:


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December 11, 2007 10:19 AM

Microsoft's unified communication a hit, sellers shorthanded

Posted by Brier Dudley

That's the take in CMP's Channel Web, a publication for the reseller industry.

It's reporting a "talent crunch" among Microsoft vendors (value-added resellers, or VARs) who are expecting a big rush on the company's unified communications software in 2008:

There's a hurricane approaching for Microsoft's channel partners. But instead of taping up windows and boarding up doorways, the best way VARs can prepare for this storm is to start building in-house expertise in unified communications and seeking out new types of partners to help deliver solutions.

That's the opinion of a growing number of Microsoft partners in the unified communications space who are gearing up for what they believe will be a flood of interest in the technology, which combines instant messaging, voice and videoconferencing to improve business collaboration.

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December 11, 2007 9:37 AM gets 90 days, same as cash

Posted by Brier Dudley

Just in time for the credit crunch, Amazon's investing in Bill Me Later, a payment service specializing in same-as-cash, deferred payment deals.

It seems like a response to eBay's PayPal and Google Checkout, but I think that's not exactly what's going on. Those services simplify checkout and create billing relationships with customers, which Amazon already does pretty well.

The partnership with Bill Me Later gives Amazon the ability to go further and offer deferred payments, such as 90 days or six months with no payments.

That sounds a little simple, but it's important for Amazon as the financial crisis tightens the screws on credit happy consumers.

If consumers start using credit cards less because they're suffering from higher mortgage rates, fuel prices and general inflation, they'll shop less at online merchants.

Bill Me Later may help fill the void. It's another way to keep the spending going with short-term credit and simplified online purchasing.

For card-wary consumers, it seems like a smaller commitment and a better deal. (It is, if you pay it off in time -- otherwise it starts charging high interest just like a credit card.)

The partnership also gives Amazon a way to offer financing deals similar to those offered by offline merchants, and it gives consumers living paycheck-to-paycheck another way to buy things they really can't afford.

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December 7, 2007 11:00 AM

Guy proposes with engraved Zune, she accepts

Posted by Brier Dudley

I hope this guy doesn't work at Microsoft's PR firm, because that would be taking things too far.

According to Gizmodo, Ben Podbielski proposed on Wednesday by presenting his girlfriend a pink Zune loaded with a slideshow set to romantic music. In the last frame, it said, "Sooo .... Turn The Zune Over."

On the back he'd used the Zune engraving service to etch "Will you marry me?" into the device.

Should we call that a Podbielskicast? At least he didn't ask by squirting her.

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December 6, 2007 9:01 PM

Amazon's winning startup: Ooyala

Posted by Brier Dudley

The Mountain View video content management service started by three ex Googlers won the first Amazon Web Service challenge that concluded at a dinner event tonight at the Seattle W Hotel.

Ooyala also has another local connection. Co-founder Sean Knapp, who previously was a UI designer at Google and developer of iGoogle, is from Gig Harbor.

Ooyala and six other finalists endured a daylong series of presentations, first at Amazon HQ on Beacon Hill and then at the hotel with a passel of venture capitalists.

As the winner, it gets $50,000 in cash, $50,000 in Amazon Web Services credits and seed funding - in an amount to be determined - from Amazon.

Best of all, the winners received a gold-painted sledgehammer signed by Jeff Bezos and presented by AWS Senior Vice President Andy Jassy, who told them they "can take a hammer to your servers because you no longer need them using Amazon Web Services."

Then the three founders donned safety goggles and took turns whacking an old server that Jassy set on the dias.

Ooyala was one of the most polished companies and also the most secretive - it was the only finalist that insisted reporters not be allowed to listen to its presentation.

That may be because the company hasn't yet announced its second round of funding. It sounds like its getting around $7.6 million, following its initial $1.5 million. Plus whatever Amazon puts in.

Since they don't really need the $50k, maybe they'll share some with their former intern, Maneesh Sethi, who suggested three months ago that the company participate in the Amazon contest. Sethi's already back at Stanford, co-founder Belsasar Lepe said.

My early guess on the winner was off a bit - you really can't judge a book by the cover. In particular, I was too quick to write off the SEO and insurance companies which both seemed to fare well and turned out to have pretty interesting technologies.

Commerce360 is working with a math professor who earlier worked on Yahoo's search algorithms and Milemeter has submitted something like 50 patents for its pay-by-mile auto insurance concept.

Milemeter President Chris Gay told me the competition was a great opportunity and winning would be worth "millions," factoring in the Amazon investment and credibility it would bring to his company. He was also glad for the chance to pitch to the assembled venture capitalists, even though some of them were familiar.

"Ironically, more than half have already turned me down,'' he said.

Continue reading this post ...

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December 6, 2007 3:06 PM

Amazon's favorite Web startups, vying for $100K-plus

Posted by Brier Dudley is hosting a shindig tonight at the W Hotel in Seattle where it will choose the best startup using its Web services.

Candidates were winnowed down to the seven that are presenting to a panel of judges this afternoon. A winner will be announced tonight and receive $50,000 cash, $50,000 in Amazon Web Services credits and the offer of an investment from Amazon.

Here are the finalists:

-- Brainscape is a free and open-source "database for resting state functional connectivity studies" developed by the Neuroinformatics Research Group at Washington University in St. Louis.

-- Commerce360 is a search-engine optimization company based outside of Philadelphia. Its key technology is "ClickEquations" software for optimizing search campaigns; clients include Comcast and The Franklin Mint.

-- is a live-video portal based in San Francisco but run by a group of former Seattlelites -- founder Justin Kan and pals Michael Seibel and Emmett Shear.

-- MileMeter is a Dallas auto insurance company preparing to offer insurance "buy the mile," selling miles in advance "so people who drive less pay less for insurance."

-- Ooyala is a high-definition Web video delivery and advertising platform started by a group of ex-Googlers, based in Mountain View, Calif., of course.

-- offers inexpensive ($19) online usability testing of Web sites. It's also based in Mountain View.

-- WeoGeo is a Florida company building "a one-stop marketplace for mapping," giving surveyors, engineers, cartographers and scientists a place to store, search, exchange and sell map products.

I haven't heard their pitches yet, but here's my early, shoot-from-the-hip take.

Web video is getting crowded, but has hometown sympathy, the groovy factor and reaches the hot demographic. Ooyala has huge ambitions, polish and the Valley buzz factor, especially since everyone's been wanting to see what sort of companies rich ex-Googlers will start (do they even need the $100K?).

Brainscape is fascinating but it's not going to be as widely used as the others and won't use as many AWS services -- would you like an MP3 with that scientific paper? I wonder if Amazon will give a break to scientific/public interest projects built with its services.

Commerce360 may be the stuff, but SEO is getting crowded, it's nichey and the company seems a bit regional.

MileMeter is clever but is it a gimmick or a revolution? I can't imagine an insurance company would be able to replace traditional risk factors with mileage. I also wonder if consumers are ready to start buying auto insurance in blocks of time, like phone card minutes; the ones who want sporadic, bargain coverage may not be best customers for an insurance company. is a great idea. I wonder if it will be acquired (or imitated) and offered as a feature by a hosting service. OfficeLive, perhaps? But it probably won't showcase the huge scaling capabilities of AWS.

WeoGeo's the real standout to me, given the intense interest in location-based services and their underlying GIS technology. It also has really slick tools for searching and shopping that may catch the eye of Amazon executives doing the judging.

We'll see who wins in a few hours.

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December 6, 2007 12:00 AM

FigurePrints gets Ed Fries back in the game

Posted by Brier Dudley

A lot of people in the local game industry will be watching FigurePrints, a Kirkland startup launching on Tuesday.

FigurePrints will use advanced 3-D plastic printing technologies to produce custom game figurines. It's starting with a service "printing" the characters people have created in "World of Warcraft," a hugely popular online, multiplayer fantasy game with more than 9 million subscribed players.

"Warcraft" must be just the start. Customizable characters and avatars are now standard features of online games, although I wonder how many have fans avid enough to pay $99 for a figurine.

But the reason the startup will get attention around here is because it's being started by Ed Fries, the former head of Microsoft Game Studios. Fries worked his way up from intern to vice president and played a big role in the Xbox business before leaving Microsoft in 2004. Recently he's kept a low profile as a consultant.

Fries isn't talking about the company yet and I feel a little bad jumping ahead of his formal announcement Tuesday, but details came out this week when Dell announced a new "World of Warcraft"-themed laptop. Among the extras included with the system is a gold ticket redeemable for a FigurePrint.

Dell provided an early system to "Warcraft" podcaster Randy Jordan, who released a video Tuesday where the FigurePrint bonus offer is explained. The figurine looks to be about 4 inches high and comes in a glass dome.

According to the podcast, FigurePrint connects to the "Warcraft" servers to obtain an exact, scale model of the characters when people place an order. Then it takes about 90 days for the figure to be completed and shipped.

Details are also available from FigurePrint's Web site, and the company is registered in Fries' name with a Kirkland address.

Maybe bundling with hardware companies is the way to go, or at least get the ball rolling. Could Fries also be working with his pals at Microsoft on, say, "Halo 3" FigurePrints that would come with special edition consoles?

Here's the Jordan video:

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December 5, 2007 10:00 AM

Red Herring: VCs on what's hot, what's not

Posted by Brier Dudley

A panel of out-of-town venture capitalists had a good discussion about investing trends Tuesday night at the Red Herring conference in Seattle. Too bad there were only about a dozen people in the audience.

Here are some highlights from the discussion with Paul Hsu of NeoCarta Ventures, Daniel Ahn of Woodside Fund, Rob Ketterson of Fidelity Ventures and Paul Matteucci of U.S. Venture Partners.

In healthcare, "we're seeing a lot less interest in drug discovery, a lot more in medical devices," particularly those going after big market opportunities such as diabetes and heart disease, Matteucci said.

Healthcare-related Web services are interesting but unlikely to get funded until their services covered by insurance, he said. That's a key threshold for his firm.

"We do deals that we think insurance companies are ready to pay for,'' he explained. "Insurance companies typically don't pay for information services."

Regarding information technology, Matteucci said "security is waning," but there's big opportunity in network storage infrastructure as virtualization, falling storage costs and energy consumption push companies to upgrade their networks and reduce operating costs.

Microsoft, Google and other may be investing in these services, but Matteucci said "they're one-offs -- it's not a trend."

Ahn said there's "waning interest in nanotechnology and materials." In nanotechnology, "people are realizing the task of manufacturing the stuff you're trying to sell is really hard, especially in the U.S."

Despite the promise of thin film materials and photovoltaics, investors are seeing that they're also a "pretty big challenge, not necessarily a venture opportunity."

Ketterson said there's "money still pouring into cleantech," but he wonders if they're really venture deals if it takes $200 million to $300 million to get the new technologies commercialized.

Matteucci talked up a shift in cleantech investing to vertical categories, where entrepreneurs are taking energy-intensive businesses such as concrete production and remaking them to be more energy efficient.

Hsu said VCs like capital efficient businesses and "biotech and solar can get very capital intensive."

Telecom, communications and networking are no longer the new thing, but the opportunity "hasn't gone away -- if you want to be a contrarian, do that,'' Ketterson said.

As for software, the old model "is on its last legs,'' he said, and Matteucci commented that its hard to build the software as a service model.

Ahn noted that semiconductors are the one area that's consistently attracted investment over the past 25 years.

In response to a question about whether automotive startups will start being acquired, Matteucci said he expects struggling old manufacturers like Ford may try to buy startups such as Tesla Motors.

"We're looking at a car deal right now,'' he said.

Looking forward, Ahn's interested in mobile phones emerging as the "platform of choice" in India and China and other places where people won't have multiple PCs but may have several mobile devices.

Hsu said he's interested U.S. companies selling abroad and opportunities in virtual currencies, either on mobile phones or related to online gaming. He's also looking into opportunities to invest in location-based services.

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December 4, 2007 5:23 PM

Ex-Origami manager starts "Netflix for books"

Posted by Brier Dudley

After 10 years at Microsoft, recently on the "Origami" ultra-mobile PC project, Dustin Hubbard started a book rental service called Paperspine.

The company, which launched last week and announced its debut with a press release today, charges a monthly fee to rent books from its library of 150,000-plus books.

Hubbard's comment from the release:

"We believe we can revolutionize the book industry by offering the convenience of the Internet with the borrowing system long used by local libraries. As a Netflix customer and avid reader, I thought the same model could work for books."

Books are ordered from its Web site and sent with return shipping mailers.

"Not only will you be saving money, you'll reduce BCS (Book Clutter Syndrome) around your house," the site says.

The base plan is $9.95 and lets users have two books out at a time and charges $1.49 shipping per book. At $14.95 a month, shipping is free, and other plans range to $24.95.

Maybe there's a market among avid readers, but not in my house of public library fanatics.

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December 4, 2007 4:40 PM partners with Flickr

Posted by Brier Dudley

Could this be the breakout for Picnik, a Seattle startup that developed an online photo editing application?

The companies announced today a partnership "to fully integrate Picnik's comprehensive photo-editing tools within Flickr."

The deal gives Picnik Chief Executive Jonathan Sposato a trifecta with the major Internet companies. He worked at Microsoft, then started a company (Phatbits) that was sold to Google. Now he's made a deal with Yahoo, owner of Flickr.

A Picnik spokeswoman wouldn't say whether Flickr is also investing in the company.

Release quotes:

"Providing the ability to edit directly within Flickr is an important step in offering our 20 million members around the globe a complete photo experience," Kakul Srivastava, senior director of product management at Flickr.
"This integration is a key milestone in achieving the Picnik team's vision of providing fun, weightless photo editing superpowers wherever you are," Sposato said. "Now, Flickr members can experience Picnik's photo-editing awesomeness firsthand without ever having to leave Flickr. We already love seeing what our users can do, and we know that combining powerful, intuitive photo editing with Flickr's photo sharing community will encourage even greater creativity and expression!"

The release said Picnik's editing tools are now available on the "edit photo" tab within Flickr. Users with premium Flickr memberships can use Picnik's "Perfect Memory" feature allowing them to undo or redo edits.

Picnik's tools will be available in English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Portuguese, Korean and Chinese.

I'm not a big Flickr user but this seems to be Yahoo's way of shoring up its editing features that lag behind Google's Picasa. Picasa, in turn, has been building up the community features where Flickr is stronger.

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December 3, 2007 5:31 PM

Firefox add-on from Yapta coming Tuesday

Posted by Brier Dudley

A public version of Yapta's new Firefox plug-in is coming tomorrow, adding the Seattle company's ticket fare tracking tool to the popular open-source browser.

Mozilla's already reviewed the add-on here.

Yapta already has a plug-in for Internet Explorer 6 and 7, available here.

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December 3, 2007 4:21 PM

More from MySQL: An open-source Microsoft?

Posted by Brier Dudley

Microsoft wasn't the focus of my conversation with MySQL Chief Executive Marten Mickos and Brian Aker, the company's Seattle-based technology director.

But they had some interesting thoughts on their big competitor and sort-of partner in Redmond. (They work together a bit on tools, for instance: MySQL builds a plug-in for Microsoft's Visual Studio).

Both speculated that Microsoft would be an open-source company if it were started today. Here's how Mickos brought it up:

"The way I look at it, when Microsoft was founded ... there was no real open source movement then. But if Microsoft was established today it would be an open-source company. Because I think smart people create businesses in what is the hot topic of the day. At that point it was building an operating system, having a closed source model, proprietary model. It was natural. I don't think they really contemplated it; they just did it. In the same sense, we grew up in open source. Did we contemplate it much? No, it was the obvious choice for reaching out to the smartest programmers in the world."

But what about the famous story of the young Bill Gates chastising programming hobbyists who "open sourced" his early Altair BASIC code?

Aker said Gates was trying to figure out how to build a software business.

"When Gates did that there was no real concept of how to make money from open source at all. Engineers at the time ... were trying to come up with any model -- because at the time who was making money? The hardware vendors were the only ones making money. Software was something that came along for free. If you look today the model has shifted and open source has been one of the models in that."

They also mentioned that Microsoft downloads a "staggering volume" of MySQL's free database.

I tried to get a response from Microsoft's Bill Hilf last week but we didn't connect. I finally heard back from a Microsoft spokeswoman this morning. She said the "lion's share" of the downloads are probably because of work done by Microsoft's open-source lab and because there's "some technical collaboration" between the companies.

The column also mentioned a Business Week story about anticipation surrounding the MySQL IPO; here's a link if you're interested.

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December 3, 2007 2:03 PM

Marcelo's startup index refreshed

Posted by Brier Dudley

Sampa founder Marcelo Calbucci released his monthly list, ranking area companies based on largely on Alexa and Compete stats. He's also added a few more to the list:

1. Intelius
2. iLike
3. Zillow
4. 43 Things (Robot Co-op)
5. SEOmoz
6. BuddyTV
7. Wetpaint
8. ActiveRain
9. PayScale
10. BlueDot (now

The biggest movers up were numbers 91 and 92 -- Jambool and YourSports, up 65 index points and 69 points. Biggest down movers were 178 Yodio, down 57 points, and 205 Phrastrain down 52.

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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.