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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 22, 2008 5:04 PM

Rhapsody and iLike flip switch on full-length Facebook songs

Posted by Brier Dudley

On Monday, when iLike talked up its new advertising services and 30 million members, it said full-length song samples via Rhapsody available on Facebook "soon."

I guess they meant "tomorrow," because they're now available, a spokeswoman said late this afternoon.

Users will get 25 full-length plays per month, after which they are limited to the usual 30-second song samples.

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July 22, 2008 4:25 PM

Xbox deal must look sweet, Netflix boss buying Microsoft shares

Posted by Brier Dudley

A week after a new partnership to stream Netflix content on Xbox consoles was announced, Netflix Chief Executive (and Microsoft board member) Reed Hastings has acquired a bunch of Microsoft shares.

Hastings acquired 53,300 shares today in five separate blocks, at prices ranging from $25.54 to $25.60, or about $1.36 million combined.

Hastings now has 177,000 shares of Microsoft, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing.

As part of their Microsoft compensation, directors annually receive stock awards worth $120,000. In Microsoft's last proxy filing. In September, Hastings received $90,000 worth since he only joined the board in March 2007.

I called Steve Swasey, vice president of communications at Netflix, to clarify whether Hastings is buying shares personally, in addition to his stock grants. He said the company won't comment on stock acquisitions of its executives, beyond what's listed in SEC filings.

Microsoft also encourages board members to own a "significant stake" in the company "to align the interests of our directors and shareholders,'' according to the proxy, so maybe Hastings is merely bringing his holdings up to par.

For appearance's sake, you wouldn't think he'd make the purchase a week after his company made a major partnership with Microsoft. But then, maybe MSFT is looking good in the $25 range.

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July 22, 2008 4:13 PM

Issaquah's McObject hooks up with Bangalore firm

Posted by Brier Dudley

Embedded database developer McObject announced today that it's partnering with Bangalore-based Waveaxis, to distrubute and provide integration services for McObject's software in India.

McObject COO Chris Mureen said in the release that there's "strong and growing demand in India" for an embedded database like his company's eXtremeDB product.

The company's already been working with Indian development organizations and India-based developers for U.S. companies.

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July 22, 2008 1:54 PM

Amazon ads on TiVo: Time to make the service free

Posted by Brier Dudley

I took the TiVo plunge awhile back, buying an HD box and a three-year service plan, but now I'm having regrets.

TiVo's is going to expand its partnership with Amazon.com to advertise products in the menus and add another layer of advertising to content I watch on the box; it's time for the company to stop charging service fees.

It's a good deal, business-wise, for both companies. But it kind of stinks for consumers.

I guess I'll have to see what shows up on the screen, but my initial feeling is that it's really obnoxious. People who pay for TiVo digital-video services pay a premium so they can better manage their TV time. If that time is going to be diluted by additional advertising -- over and above what's already on the tube -- the service shouldn't carry a premium charge.

Maybe I should have stuck with Windows Media Center. I had some hardware performance challenges and it will surely have more ads one of these days, but at least its DVR capabilities are free.

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July 22, 2008 1:25 PM

Gamefest: Games more expensive and recession proof, bigger than Batman

Posted by Brier Dudley

Video game software and hardware are getting more expensive, but the industry should keep growing despite the recession, NPD analyst Mike Klotz said during a presentation at Microsoft's Gamefest conference in Seattle today.

Last year the average retail prices grew 15 percent for game hardware and 16 percent for game software, he said.

Overall game sales at retail totaled $19 billion, closing in on retail sales of toys ($22 billion last year) and home videos ($24 billion). Left in the dust are movie tickets, which totaled $10 billion last year, and music sales, at $11 billion.

Klotz also noted that despite the huge opening weekend for the latest Batman movie -- $155 million for "Dark Knight" -- that pales next to $300 million opening day sales of "Grand Theft Auto IV."

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July 22, 2008 10:08 AM

Gamefest: Microsoft dangles dollars for amateur games, offers free multiplayer

Posted by Brier Dudley

The latest iteration of Microsoft's XNA community games program may be the most exciting yet for amateur game developers, including college students around the world using the software in school.

Microsoft announced this morning at its Gamefest conference in Seattle that it will now sell community developed games on Xbox Live and give developers 70 percent of the proceeds.

'We want to encourage as many people as possible to be creative, make a lot of content, put it through the system and make a lot of money," Boyd Multerer, XNA general manager, said during his opening keynote with Chris Satchell, CTO of Microsoft's interactive entertainment business.

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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.