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Brier Dudley's Blog

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

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May 8, 2008 4:30 PM

Nintendo don and ex-Mariners owner Wiicher than ever

Posted by Brier Dudley

Soaring Wii sales boosted the net worth of Nintendo founder Hiroshi Yamauchi by $3 billion last year, according to a new Forbes list of the richest people in Japan.

The 80-year-old gaming magnate rose to first place, up from third, on the list with an estimated fortune of $7.8 billion, according to this Reuters report.

Yamauchi became a principal owner of the Mariners in 1992 but sold his stake in 2004 to Redmond-based Nintendo of America.

He still owns 10 percent of Nintendo, the shares of which have tripled since the Wii's launch.

(No wonder Steve Jobs is looking into a Wii-like remote that could make the Apple TV into a game console....)

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May 8, 2008 11:14 AM

Ohmigod! Celeb crazy Coolspotters launches, with Seattle funding

Posted by Brier Dudley

The latest Starwave spawn is Coolspotters, an outrageously materialistic online shopping/celebrity/social networking venture that could make a bundle for its Seattle investors.

Coolspotters is a site where fans can learn about and buy the stuff their favorite celebrities are purportedly using. Users can build profiles listing their favorite fans, and share and discuss fans and stuff with others obsessed about the same celebrities. It's like iLike for brand name stuff.

A cut from its home page:


Here's how CEO and co-foudner Aaron LaBerge described it in the launch release today:

Continue reading this post ...

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May 8, 2008 10:54 AM

MySpace letting users' info roam

Posted by Brier Dudley

Finally, MySpace has announced the data portability project that its CTO, Aber Whitcomb, was talking up in March, when he was in Seattle for a developer conference hosted by the company's Pioneer Square engineering office.

The initial effort lets users share info like photos and friends with other networked sites like Yahoo, Twitter, eBay and MySpace corporate cousin Photobucket.

No wonder the Los Angeles-based News Corp. venture is hiring so many engineers up here, to build not only site features but cool tools for developers.

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May 8, 2008 9:48 AM

Free video game from UW: Wiggling and shaking for science

Posted by Brier Dudley

A group at the University of Washington developed a clever new way to get the public's help with the massive computing challenge of researching cures for conditions such as HIV and Alzheimer's.

They created a free, downloadable video game called FoldIt! that "turns protein folding into a competitive sport."

I was skeptical, too, but after I downloaded it and played for awhile, it became addictive. The game draws out any latent obsessive-compulsive disorder you may have, encouraging you to wiggle, shake and pull 3D proteins to "fix" their shapes. A screen grab:


Continue reading this post ...

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May 8, 2008 12:00 AM

Clearwire 2.0 boss on his big plans for Seattle, privacy and more

Posted by Brier Dudley

The blockbuster merger of Sprint's WiMax business into Clearwire, announced Wednesday, was negotiated in cities across the country.

But they may as well have done the deal in a Kirkland wine bar -- it was like a reunion of local wireless executives, coming back to McCawville.

Long before Dan Hesse started running Sprint, he was running Redmond-based AT&T Wireless, the former McCaw Cellular Communications.

When Hesse and Clearwire Chairman Craig McCaw decided to pursue WiMax together, McCaw called in his former general, John Stanton, to help his current lieutenant, Clearwire Chief Executive Ben Wolff, lead the merged company.

So it's no wonder the biggest beneficiary of the deal could end up being the Puget Sound region.

If Clearwire grows according to the plans these guys hashed out, the company will be huge, on the scale of the other major wireless companies the area has spawned.

Wolff told me that ultimately the company could "get to 20,000 or 30,000 employees" nationally.

"This is a testament to the ongoing connection that Seattle has to the wireless industry and certainly with us growing Clearwire in Seattle, that presence will increase fairly dramatically,’’ he said.

Headquarters will remain here, although it's likely to soon outgrow the Carillon Point offices where McCaw has launched a series of wireless companies.

Clearwire has about 2,000 employees now, including 350 to 400 at its Kirkland headquarters. Sprint has about 700 in its WiMax unit, including a research and development group in Herndon, Va.

Research will continue to grow in Herndon, but the exact distribution of employees hasn't been determine, Wolff said.

"What's really exciting for me is we've got what's going to be a large company that's going to be a major player changing the communications landscape again in the Seattle area,'' he said.

Clearwire partners Intel and Google could also co-locate some engineers at the company to develop their WiMax products, although they already have engineers in the area.

Wolff also clarified Stanton's stake in the new venture. After he agreed to serve on the board at the request of Wolff and McCaw, Stanton chose to invest $10 million.

Although Google gives Clearwire some Silicon Valley pixie dust, plus cash, I wonder if consumers will be concerned about subscribing to a broadband service embedded with Google technology for targeting ads based on their online activity.

Wolff said privacy is a top issue for Clearwire and consumers will have the choice of opting in or out of services.

"I think the privacy issues and how consumers view that is going to be our paramount concern, so you won't find us doing anything that causes customers to be concerned about how their private information is being handled,'' he said.

On the service, you'll find "consumers opting in to different offers and applications but that will be their choice rather than ours,'' he said.

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May 2008



Demo of the Week:

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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.