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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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April 30, 2008 5:05 PM

SF game startup taps Jeff Bezos

Posted by Brier Dudley

Apparently Amazon.com's not going to start its own casual games network anytime soon.

At least that's one way to read the news that Jeff Bezos is personally investing $3 million in Kongregate, a San Francisco online gaming network tailored to young and mostly male gamers. The money from his investment outfit,Bezos Expeditions, is on top of $6 million the company raised earlier from angel investors, including LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, who made the connection with Bezos.

Bezos is careful to be sure his personal ventures don't overlap with Amazon's, and Kongregate had to be sure it wouldn't be doing anything with the company before taking the funding, according to Jim Greer, the startup's co-founder and chief executive officer.

Greer worked at casual games giant Pogo before starting Kongregate in June 2006. The site is ad-funded but it's exploring microtransactions and hosted multiplayer games as new ways to make money. It's also preparing to launch several Facebook applications.

Kongregate's site is growing 25 percent a month and draws more than 3 million visitors a month to play games mostly submitted by amateur developers. Its 15 employees are mostly in San Francisco, but it also has a five-person engineering team in Portland.

Here's a screenshot of its upcoming Facebook application:

kongregate lost image.png

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April 30, 2008 4:46 PM

Wii alert: They're finally in stock, thanks to "Grand Theft Auto"

Posted by Brier Dudley

I had a rare Wii sighting at the GameStop in Seattle's Pacific Place shopping center this afternoon.

Apparently the flow of videogame spending has temporarily shifted to "Grand Theft Auto IV," judging from the big stack of unsold Wiis behind the counter.

Continue reading this post ...


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April 30, 2008 2:52 PM

Seattle video startup Mixpo enters pupa stage

Posted by Brier Dudley

Maybe it's a springtime phenomenon, but startups across town seem to be emerging with new business plans and increasingly a focus on the emerging online video advertising market.

Continue reading this post ...


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April 28, 2008 10:03 AM

More on GTA: Spurned by Rockstar Games

Posted by Brier Dudley

I've been thinking about the political/satire angle of "Grand Theft Auto IV" for a while, but I almost scrubbed today's column after my experience with the studio behind the game.

Continue reading this post ...


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April 24, 2008 5:04 PM

Ramping up and hiring: WatchGuard, Attachmate, Ontela ...

Posted by Brier Dudley

The economy stinks and venture funding may be slowing a bit, but the WTIA Investment Forum was packed with companies saying they're expanding and hiring like crazy.

Continue reading this post ...


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April 24, 2008 1:45 PM

Buyout guru: Ballmer has to buy Yahoo, no need to raise bid

Posted by Brier Dudley

More from the WTIA Investment Forum today:

During his lunchtime keynote, Francisco Partners founder Benjamin Ball was asked whether Steve Ballmer should be going after Yahoo.

Running a buyout firm specializing in turnaround tech deals -- his firm snapped up Seattle's Watchguard, Attachmate and WRQ -- Ball has a little perspective here.

"I think he has to buy Yahoo,'' Ball said.

"I like mergers of this type of nature because we've crated a lot of a value that way," he explained. "I don’t think he has to pay anything more because I think Jerry Yang and the guys at Yahoo are in a lot more trouble than they think."

But Ball said he didn't know whether the Yahoo deal will be enough for Microsoft to knock the Google guys off their perch. "Those guys, they're not going to fall off, so to speak,'' he said.

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April 24, 2008 11:48 AM

Microsoft kills MSN Spot watches, repurposing data network

Posted by Brier Dudley

It's a sad day for geek fashion.

Continue reading this post ...


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April 24, 2008 10:15 AM

WTIA's startupalooza investment forum

Posted by Brier Dudley

A few tidbits from the morning session of the tech trade group's forum at Bell Harbor conference center:

The outlook is uncertain for venture capitalists, according to Stephen Sommerville, a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers who presented data from the MoneyTree Report.

Washington state is still doing relatively well, ranking fifth in investments in the first quarter and fourth in terms of deals, with software and biotech still getting the lion's share.

Continue reading this post ...


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April 24, 2008 9:44 AM

Qwest bringing fiber broadband to Seattle, other cities, but to everybody?

Posted by Brier Dudley

Finally, the company is offering truly high-speed broadband services with new packages announced this morning - a $50 per month package offering up to 12 Mbps, and a $100 per month package offering up to 20 Mbps.

Continue reading this post ...


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April 23, 2008 5:10 PM

Microsoft's new lab honoring Jim Gray at the other UW

Posted by Brier Dudley

The six-person advanced research lab is a cooperative venture with the University of Wisconsin in Madison, a powerhouse in database systems research.

David DeWitt, the school's former computer science chairman, will head that lab, which is called the Microsoft Jim Gray Systems Lab in honor of the pioneering computer scientist.

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April 23, 2008 4:27 PM

Xbox chief on Grand Theft Auto IV, console shortages and Sony PS3 gains

Posted by Brier Dudley

While we watched kids at Children's Hospital playing Xbox 360 kiosks that Microsoft donated today to the recreation program, I chatted with Robbie Bach about a game that won't appear on those particular consoles -- "Grand Theft Auto IV."

Continue reading this post ...


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April 23, 2008 2:15 PM

Mickey's hiring geeks: Disney adding 100 at Seattle tech hub

Posted by Brier Dudley

Ten years after setting up shop in Seattle through its acquisition of Starwave, Disney's again building up its presence here.

Continue reading this post ...


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April 23, 2008 12:00 AM

Online realty startup Estately lands funding, eyes regional expansion

Posted by Brier Dudley

Zillow gets more attention, but Estately.com has more local listings in the greater Puget Sound region, according to Galen Ward, co-founder of the plucky little real estate Web site that just landed its first funding.

Continue reading this post ...


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April 22, 2008 5:21 PM

Seattle loses gaming godfather to NYC in Oberon reorganization

Posted by Brier Dudley

As part of a big rebranding/reorganization at Oberon Media announced today, Seattle studio boss Don Ryan has relocated to headquarters in New York.

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April 22, 2008 2:49 PM

Valleywag on Microsoft's belated -- or misleading? -- Valentine to Amazon.com

Posted by Brier Dudley

Did Microsoft intentionally deceive the Windows team in the summer of 2006, in the home stretch to finish Vista?

Continue reading this post ...


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April 22, 2008 1:53 PM

Yahoo's earnings: Duct tape and chewing gum?

Posted by Brier Dudley

Yahoo's trumpeting its 11 percent profit increase this afternoon as a rebuttal to Microsoft, and the story emerged as "Yahoo beats estimates," but where would it be without a few one-time events that happened during the quarter?

It's a tricky earnings report.

It looks to me like special events carried the day. Without a $350 million one-time payment from AT&T, free cash flow would have declined instead of gaining 75 percent. Without a $401 million gain from its stake in Alibaba's IPO, net income would have been flat.

Even with those one-time pops, Yahoo's business segment income wasn't very exciting. From the release:

United States segment operating income before depreciation, amortization, and stock-based compensation expense for the first quarter of 2008 was $315 million, an 8 percent decrease compared to $342 million for the same period of 2007.

International segment operating income before depreciation, amortization, and stock-based compensation
expense for the first quarter of 2008 was $118 million, a 1 percent decrease compared to $119 million for
the same period of 2007.

Does the report say Yahoo's still got it, or that Ballmer's right and he may have bid too much?

Seems like Yahoo pulled out all the stops and had a few lucky breaks during this quarter, so today's earnings report may not be the window into the company's true situation that investors deserve.

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April 22, 2008 12:46 PM

Windows Vista causing grief? One expert's coping strategy ...

Posted by Brier Dudley

With my blog overflowing with tales of Vista malaise, Microsoft's Charlie Owen suggested I check out Ed Bott's explanation of how he "saved" a Sony Vaio running Vista.

Continue reading this post ...


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April 22, 2008 9:50 AM

Seattle photo startup Picnik pounces on Photobucket API

Posted by Brier Dudley

Seattle photo editing startup Picnik may have a mixed relationship with Photobucket, but it's still trying to catch the waves created by Photobucket's announcement that it's offering an API to Web developers.

Continue reading this post ...


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April 21, 2008 10:00 AM

Column on Microsoft's Vista attitude strikes nerve

Posted by Brier Dudley

Today's column on Microsoft's attitude toward Windows Vista apparently tapped a rich vein of frustration with the operating system.

Continue reading this post ...


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April 21, 2008 6:00 AM

Online demo: Ex-Amazonian's TeachStreet.com launching today

Posted by Brier Dudley

Seattle's the testbed for an education oriented startup called TeachStreet.com that's launching today.

Continue reading this post ...


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April 21, 2008 12:00 AM

Cloud database Blist goes global, adds community tools

Posted by Brier Dudley

About 30 percent of the people using Blist, the Seattle-based online database, are already outside the U.S., Chief Executive Kevin Merritt said in a release.

That should grow now that Blist has internationalized the service, supporting languages such as French, Norwegian, Japanese, Hindi and Mandarin Chinese.

The service also added group and community collaboration tools and video tutorials, stuff that should help the company talk the talk at this week's Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco.

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April 18, 2008 1:49 PM

Starwave reunion: The Flickr set

Posted by Brier Dudley

It sounds like Starwave alumni had quite a party last night at a reunion held at Elysian Fields in Pioneer Square.

Continue reading this post ...


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April 17, 2008 3:58 PM

Nokia's dialing into Kirkland, building on Twango media venture

Posted by Brier Dudley

When it bought mobile media-sharing startup Twango last year, Nokia said it would use the Redmond company as a base to expand its presence in the Seattle area. The Finns weren't kidding.

Continue reading this post ...


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April 16, 2008 4:25 PM

Valve's spring break escapades

Posted by Brier Dudley

It was unusually quiet at Bellevue game publisher Valve last week.

Continue reading this post ...


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April 16, 2008 12:04 PM

UW leads "Sherlock Holmes" military computing project

Posted by Brier Dudley

Maybe this will help finally locate Osama bin Laden.

Continue reading this post ...


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April 16, 2008 11:00 AM

Seattle sets forum on digital TV switchover

Posted by Brier Dudley

To help educate people about the switch to digital broacasting coming next February, Seattle City Councilman Bruce Harrell has arranged a public forum at City Hall at noon on April 22.

Topics include:

Continue reading this post ...


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April 15, 2008 5:28 PM

Former Zillow manager takes on MySpace, MTV and more with video startup

Posted by Brier Dudley

PluggedIn, a new social network built around music videos launching Wednesday, is based in Santa Monica, Calif. but it has a few Seattle connections.

Like its chief executive, a former Zillow and Amazon.com manager who still lives in Mount Baker.

Continue reading this post ...


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April 15, 2008 4:55 PM

Microsoft paints itself green

Posted by Brier Dudley

All of those cans of free soda add up: Microsoft is recycling 200 tons of material per month, according to a presentation at today's Washington State Technology Summit.

The company was green before it was cool, said Roger Gulrajani, senior director of the Windows core operating system group and a keynote speaker at the summit.

Continue reading this post ...


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April 14, 2008 4:03 PM

BuddyTV tunes in $6 million from Madrona

Posted by Brier Dudley

BuddyTV founders Andy Liu and David Niu will invest their series B funding in people and technology to continue the growth of their online TV community site.

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April 14, 2008 3:16 PM

Widgetbucks' comScore debut

Posted by Brier Dudley

Seattle-based Widgetbucks didn't make the top 20, but it was called out in a new comScore tally of online ad networks.

Continue reading this post ...


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April 10, 2008 2:11 PM

Forget Yahoo: Windows is collapsing, analysts warn

Posted by Brier Dudley

I hope Microsoft isn't Yahooing while its Rome burns.

From a Computerworld story today:

Continue reading this post ...


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April 10, 2008 10:46 AM

Microsoft-Yahoo: Swapping Marvin Gardens and Baltic Avenue

Posted by Brier Dudley

The Yahoo-Microsoft saga is starting to feel like the last 15 minutes of a Monopoly game.

Continue reading this post ...


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April 10, 2008 6:00 AM

Skytap surfaces with UW-spawned cloud computing technology

Posted by Brier Dudley

One Seattle's hottest new startups may be a Pioneer Square company started by a group of UW professors and a graduate student with an especially promising thesis project.

The project was the basis of a secretive company called Illumita that they started in mid 2006.

Today the company's revealing its core product, a new name and a chief executive recruited by investors who funded the company last August.

Continue reading this post ...


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April 9, 2008 3:17 PM

Yahoo's desperate Google deal: Grief stage two or three?

Posted by Brier Dudley

Maybe it's time to start covering Microsoft's pending acquisition of Yahoo the way Percy Allen wrote about the loss of the Sonics today: Where are we in the five stages of grief?

From Yahoo's perspective, it sounds like the depression stage.

Why else would it clutch its cross-town rival at the last minute, floating a partnership with Google that nobody expects to survive antitrust scrutiny? Is it a bargaining chip or resignation?

The parallels make sense, and not just because the Sonics and Yahoo were both pushed by Steve Ballmer deadlines.

We've already seen Yahoo's denial and anger, and the bargaining stage seems to have concluded this weekend with Ballmer's ultimatum. Sorry Yahoo, but that means it's now time for acceptance.

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April 9, 2008 12:21 PM

Wireless industry says phone taxes whack Washingtonians

Posted by Brier Dudley

Washington has the second-highest taxation of wireless phone services, according to a report that an industry lobbyist is circulating in Olympia.

It says local, state and federal taxes and fees on wireless services here come to 20.62 percent, second only to Nebraska's 22.54 percent. At the bottom of the list is Oregon, at 5.85 percent.

There are too many taxes tacked onto phone services, wired and wireless. Sales taxes are also high in Washington, particularly in the Seattle metro area. But I wouldn't take the CTIA's report as the definitive word on the subject.

Continue reading this post ...


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April 8, 2008 12:25 PM

Investors shrug at Google's challenge to Amazon's AWS?

Posted by Brier Dudley

There's so much happening on Wall Street it's hard to link news announcements, but I'm curious why Amazon stock is flat to up a bit today (plus 0.5 percent in a down market, at last check) despite the competition from Google's new App Engine hosting service.

Google investors don't seem overly moved by the announcement either, even though it opens a broad new front in the company's potentially awesome developer and tools business. GOOG was down about 2 percent at last check.

Continue reading this post ...


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April 2, 2008 10:00 AM

Family networking site Sampa raises $1 million, rolls out redesign

Posted by Brier Dudley

Is Sampa Seattle's little startup that could?

The company started out offering simple personalized Web pages and then sharpened its focus on the family market, where it found traction building sites where families can stay connected and share photos.

Continue reading this post ...


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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.