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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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March 31, 2010 6:17 PM

First iPad reviews appear, mostly thumbs up

Posted by Brier Dudley

As expected, Apple gave the New York Times' David Pogue , USA Today's Ed Baig and the Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg an early crack at the iPad for reviews that just appeared.

The device, of course, goes on sale Saturday starting at $499. The chosen few apparently loved it, but had a few quibbles.

Both Mossberg and Pogue found the iPad battery life better than Apple's promised 10 hours, with Pogue getting 12 hours of video playback and Mossberg more than 11.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for IMG00068-20100127-1017.JPG

Mossberg agrees with Steve Jobs, that it's a revolutionary device:

After spending hours and hours with it, I believe this beautiful new touch-screen device from Apple has the potential to change portable computing profoundly, and to challenge the primacy of the laptop. It could even help, eventually, to propel the finger-driven, multitouch user interface ahead of the mouse-driven interface that has prevailed for decades.

With an iPad on hand, Mossberg found himself using his laptops less and less.

My verdict is that, while it has compromises and drawbacks, the iPad can indeed replace a laptop for most data communication, content consumption and even limited content creation, a lot of the time. But it all depends on how you use your computer.

If you're mainly a Web surfer, note-taker, social-networker and emailer, and a consumer of photos, videos, books, periodicals and music--this could be for you. If you need to create or edit giant spreadsheets or long documents, or you have elaborate systems for organizing email, or need to perform video chats, the iPad isn't going to cut it as your go-to device.

Pogue split his review in two, praising it as a wonderful new gadget for non-techies, while ripping its shortcomings from the geeky perspective.

The iPad is so fast and light, the multitouch screen so bright and responsive, the software so easy to navigate, that it really does qualify as a new category of gadget. Some have suggested that it might make a good goof-proof computer for technophobes, the aged and the young; they're absolutely right.

From the geek perspective, Pogue said Apple's selection of digital books for the iPad is meager and its on-screen keyboard is "horrible" when the device is upright and "just barely usable" when it's turned 90 degrees.

There's no multitasking, either. It's one app at a time, just like on the iPhone. Plus no U.S.B. jacks and no camera. Bye-bye, Skype video chats. You know Apple is just leaving stuff out for next year's model.

The bottom line is that you can get a laptop for much less money -- with a full keyboard, DVD drive, U.S.B. jacks, camera-card slot, camera, the works. Besides: If you've already got a laptop and a smartphone, who's going to carry around a third machine?

Baig called the iPad "a winner" that is "rewriting the rulebook for mainstream computing":

The first iPad is a winner. It stacks up as a formidable electronic-reader rival for Amazon's Kindle. It gives portable game machines from Nintendo and Sony a run for their money. At the very least, the iPad will likely drum up mass-market interest in tablet computing in ways that longtime tablet visionary and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates could only dream of.

Here's the quickie iPad review I wrote after trying it at the January launch event.

Here's USA Today's video that ran with Baig's review:

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March 31, 2010 4:50 PM

MOD's statement on charged ex CEO

Posted by Brier Dudley

Check out the image running alongside MOD Systems' statement today about its former chief executive facing federal fraud charges:


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March 31, 2010 2:55 PM

RealNetworks lays off 60 as part of restructuring

Posted by Brier Dudley

With its spinoff of the Rhapsody music business nearing completion, RealNetworks is laying off 60 people, or about 4 percent of its 1,700 employees.

Most of the affected employees are in Seattle. They include people supporting the Rhapsody business, as well as a employees in other groups.

Interim Chief Executive Bob Kimball announced in February a dramatic restructuring of its business, including the spinoff of the Rhapsody subscription music service and eventually Real's games business.

Whether that results in additional layoffs remains to be seen. The company's periodically laid off employees as its business slowed in recent years.

"It's too early to speculate on what's gong to happen next, but Bob and the management team are focused on the mantra of simplify, restructure and grow," spokesman Bill Hankes said.

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March 29, 2010 3:02 PM

WSJ: New iPhone this summer, plus one for Verizon

Posted by Brier Dudley

As if Apple needed any more buzz the week before its iPad goes on sale, the Wall Street Journal today is reporting that a new iPhone is coming this summer and Apple's preparing a CDMA version of its hit phone for Verizon Wireless.

It credits "people briefed on the matter" and received no comments from the companies.

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March 29, 2010 2:35 PM

Nintendo DS "Easy Piano" comes to U.S., via Redmond

Posted by Brier Dudley

Nintendo DS owners wanting a plug-in piano keyboard for their device can stop envying their European counterparts.

Redmond publisher Valcon Games is bringing the "Easy Piano" game and keyboard to the North American market starting this week. Franco-Belgian game company GameLife released the title in Europe last September .

The $39 bundle includes a 13-note, full-octave external keyboard that plugs into the DS and software for learning keyboard skills, playing rythym games and composing and recording songs up to three minutes long on the DS.

"Easy Piano" is scaled to fit the standard DS; it doesn't yet have a larger keyboard for the new DS XL. The game is starting to appear this week at major retailers.

sliver-ds-lite-piano copy_lg.JPG

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March 29, 2010 10:09 AM

Review: HTC HD2, the supersize smartphone

Posted by Brier Dudley

After spending a few days with the latest phone that Steve Jobs doesn't want you to have, I'm not sure what all the fuss is about.

I'm talking about the HTC HD2, a striking gray slab with an enormous 4.3-inch display - the largest touch-screen of any phone now available in the U.S.

HD2 pic.jpg

Continue reading this post ...

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March 26, 2010 5:01 PM

Steve Jobs and Eric Schmidt appear together

Posted by Brier Dudley

Gizmodo has a funny analysis of the joint appearance today by Apple's Steve Jobs and Google's Eric Schmidt over coffee at a Palo Alto, Calif., shopping center, asking a former federal agent to assess their body language.

It doesn't answer the big question, though, of whether the appearance was staged to offset stories about their nasty fallout.

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March 25, 2010 5:02 PM

With China concerns high, India courts Dell's $25B hardware biz

Posted by Brier Dudley

India may see an opportunity to boost manufacturing of PCs and other electronics if Google's pullout is followed by more tech companies repelled by China's policies.

After meeting this week with Michael Dell, India's prime minister said the Texas PC giant may be looking for a "safer environment" than China for its manufacturing, according to a Bloomberg report.

This could be a bombshell. China losing Google's search business is a big deal, but the potential of losing Dell is enormous. The company spends $25 billion a year on components from China, the Bloomberg report said.

Bloomberg reported the story after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh released a statement about his meeting with Dell.

A Dell spokeswoman denied that Dell discussed changing sourcing of components, and Singh's statement was removed from India's press bureau Web site.

This could get scary.

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March 25, 2010 10:58 AM

Video: "Big Fish Babes" on "Today Show"

Posted by Brier Dudley

The Big Fish Babes I profiled last summer are still together and were highlighted this morning on "The Today Show," which included video taken at Seattle's Big Fish Games, the company whose casual titles brought the group of women together.

Here's the original story about the Babes and the "Today" video:

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

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March 25, 2010 12:00 AM

Major League Soccer's slick new video service debuts in Seattle

Posted by Brier Dudley

Tonight's Sounders game is an especially big opener for Major League Soccer, which is using the Seattle game to debut new online services for fans, including a high-def streaming video service.

Not coincidentally, a lot of the services are based on technology from Microsoft, which is a major sponsor of the league and the Sounders.

U.S. soccer fans on average are more technologically inclined than the general public, and the league is counting on new digital services to keep growing its popularity, said Chris Schlosser, MLS director of digital strategy.

Schlosser, a former product planner in Microsoft's MSN group, led the development of entirely new Web sites for the league and individual teams that are also debuting at today's game.

"It's one of the most significant investments our [league] ownership group has ever made,'' he said. "They clearly see our fan base is digital and the future growth of our league is driven by continued growth in the digital space."

The new online video service, called MatchDay Live, will stream up to three games at once and provide digital video recorder-like features, including pause, rewind and "instant replay."

The player has a banner listing games across the league, which can be clicked to display "picture in picture" thumbnails while a game plays in the main screen.

Other features include live chat for sending instant messages to other fans and a "Field Tracker" with an aerial display showing highlights during a game.

"This really changes the experience for the MLS,'' said Chris Wagner, executive vice president of NeuLion, a New York-based company that built the player for MLS.

NeuLion provides similar services for the national hockey and football leagues and schools such as the University of Oregon, running their Web sites and online video subscription services.

For $39.95, MatchDay Live subscribers will get access to up to 160 live games, plus on-demand replays, during the 2010 season. There are about 225 games during the season; subscribers won't be able to stream them all because of restrictions on streaming local games live and on games that are being broadcast nationally on TV.


Playoff games will cost extra. Prices haven't been set, but Wagner said a playoff package will probably cost $10 to $15.

MatchDay Live is built on Microsoft's Silverlight platform, the same system used to stream the Olympics and by Netflix to build its online video service.


Microsoft and the MLS also worked together on a mobile app that will be highlighted in a new mobile application store coming later this year.

But the new Web sites are based on open-source software. MLS built and runs them itself, after previously outsourcing its sites to Major League Baseball.

The MLS sites were "built for the social Web" with Twitter and Facebook integration and content provided by a staff of veteran soccer journalists now working for the league, Schlosser said.

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March 24, 2010 10:17 AM

Ford ships 2 millionth car with Microsoft Sync

Posted by Brier Dudley

Ford announced today that it reached a new milestone with the Sync voice-control and entertainment system built on Microsoft's automotive platform, shipping the system on its 2 millionth vehicle.

It took Ford about two years to reach the millionth Sync vehicle - a Fusion Hybrid that Ford CEO Alan Mulally personally delivered to his pal Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer - and 10 months to ship the second million. System number 2 million also went into a Fusion.

"The success of SYNC proves that customers want to be connected," Ford marketing VP, Ken Czubay, said in the release. "The speed with which we've hit the 2 million mark, the premium SYNC adds at auction, and the improvements in purchase consideration show that it is a true differentiator for us, adding real value for the customer."

Sync is a $395 option but Ford claims the system increases the resale value of its cars by $200 to $240.

It's also added value to the Seattle tech community, where a number of companies are contributing technology and services to the Sync platform, including telematics provider Airbiquity, embedded systems developer Bsquare and traffic services provider Inrix.

And it's more evidence of the authenticity of this graffiti I photographed at the Consumer Electronics Show in January:

Thumbnail image for DSCN1429.JPG

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March 23, 2010 3:05 PM

T-Mobile CTO: Superfast 3G coming to Seattle by year-end

Posted by Brier Dudley

T-Mobile USA is apparently taking the Clearwire approach to rolling out its fast mobile broadband network, offering most everywhere in the country before launching in its hometown.

Is it the challenging topography that's keeping Seattle from getting T-Mobile's HSPA plus service until later in the year?

Philadelphia has had it since last fall, and today the company said "plus" is now in New York City, New Jersey, Long Island and suburban Washington, D.C., and "coming very soon" to Los Angeles.

It turns out the timing has to do with connecting T-Mobile's cell sites to the Internet with fiber optic cable so they can handle the faster speeds. It's taking a little longer to get fiber backhaul to the Seattle-area sites.

"We've already got the software essentially in the network," Cole Brodman, T-Mobile's chief technology and innovation officer, said by phone from the CTIA show in Las Vegas.
"It's not so much the software capabilty but to truly unlock the performance you've got to have the backbone. That's where we have some regional differences."

HSPA plus will be a nice bonus for current T-Mobile subscribers with 3G devices. The early run in Philadelphia is seeing average speeds between 5 and 8 megabits per second with peaks over 10 Mbps. The system can support peaks up to 21 Mbps, and it's backward compatible with current 3G devices.

Customers may not need that kind of speed on their current phone, but new models with bigger screens, better cameras and video services are on the way. For instance, next week T-Mobile releases the HTC HD2, which has a 4.3-inch screen and comes loaded with Blockbuster video service.

T-Mobile has found that the average user with a 3G Android device is consuming 20 times the data capacity of 2G smartphone users, Brodman said.

The HSPA plus speed will be especially noticeable for people using the network to connect netbooks and laptops, which won't see buffering of online video, Brodman said. (T-Mobile also announced today that it's selling its first netbook, the Dell Mini 10, with mobile broadband service.)

Will all these devices bog down T-Mobile's network, the way AT&T's network was slammed by the iPhone?

Brodman said they won't, because the company bought plenty of spectrum and it's using only one channel for its 3G network. "That channel is nowhere near being fully utilized," he said.

Usage also becomes more efficient as speeds increase, he said, explaining that it takes people less time to download files. As people move to 3G smartphones, they also free up spectrum used by the older network.

Still, Brodman couldn't be more specific about the Seattle rollout. The city "is one of our top metropolitan markets we'll be rolling out in 2010. It will be there this year," he said.

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March 23, 2010 1:56 PM

First 4G Android phone from Sprint & HTC, coming summer

Posted by Brier Dudley

The 4G phone race is on. Sprint and HTC announced a 4G-3G combo phone they'll begin selling this summer.

"Not only is this feature-rich device incredible on our Sprint 3G network, but Sprint 4G speeds will take mobile multimedia, including live video streaming, gaming and picture downloads, to a whole new level," Sprint Chief Executive Dan Hesse said in the release, issued from CTIA.

Pricing of the HTC EVO 4G will be released later, but you can take a leap by pre-registering for the device today at

The EVO has a 4.3-inch touchscreen 1 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, 8 megapixel autofocus camera with HD-capable video camcorder, plus a forward-facing 1.3 megapixel camera.

It also has a built-in hotspot feature that lets up to eight WiFi devices share its 4G connection. That could make it a great accessory to devices like the WiFi only version of the iPad, or help make friends at a coffee shop or bar with a poor connection.

Spring and HTC poked at Apple in the release, mentioning that the EVO's support of Adobe Flash "ensures that rich Internet content, such as embedded video and animation, are displayed the way they are meant to be seen."

The EVO has the HTC Sense interface, plus features such as a "Friend Stream" that aggregates updates from social networks and a "polite" ringre that quiets a ringing phone when it's picked up, the release said.

News of the device follows Clearwire's announcement that it's bringing 4G service to more cities, including Los Angeles, and will reach 120 million people by the end of the year.

T-Mobile's also talking up improvements to its 3G network, the majority of which will be upgraded to near 4G speeds with HSPA+ technology by year-end, reaching 185 million people.

A few images of the EVO:



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March 22, 2010 3:06 PM

Google's China move: A compromise?

Posted by Brier Dudley

Google's bold move in China seems like a carefully negotiated compromise more than the grand statement pulling completely out of China would have been.

Apparently the decision to partly pull out -- moving Google's search service to China's least restrictive territory, Hong Kong, while keeping some business operations in the mainland -- resulted from some haggling between the company and the country.

Google co-founder Sergey Brin shared some of the detail in a brief interview with Steve Lohr of the New York Times:

"The shift of its Chinese service to Hong Kong, Mr. Brin said, was not given a clear-cut stamp of approval by Beijing. But he said there was a 'back and forth' with the Chinese government on what to do. 'There was a sense that Hong Kong was the right step,' Mr. Brin said."

It's a milestone that calls more attention to Chinese censorship and Google's convictions.

But it looks like both sides get their way -- Google follows through on its pledge to provide uncensored search results while staying open for business in China, and China's information repression continues on the mainland.

It's like the promise of universal coverage vs. what we're getting from health care reform.

UPDATE: A Google spokeswoman disputed my characterization of Sergey's comments, saying it's unfair to describe them as evidence of a compromise. She said via email that "conversation isn't compromise."

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March 22, 2010 1:40 PM

Ex-Expedia team hiring, promoting new travel company

Posted by Brier Dudley

A group of former Expedia executives is dropping bigger hints about a new travel company they're starting in Seattle.

With the buzz they're getting so far, they won't have to spend any of the $9.8 million they've raised on job ads.

Rich Barton first announced the venture with a Tweet in January, saying "Greg Slyngstad & I are cooking up a consumer internet startup. R U our founding CTO? Seeking smart, passionate team-builder."

Barton and Slyngstad worked together on the creation of Expedia within Microsoft in the early 1990s and worked together later when it was a standalone company.

They found a CTO -- former Expedia engineering boss Sunil Shah -- and are now hiring software engineers and managers, including a business development director with travel and advertising experience.

After trickling out hints, the company today filed an SEC report disclosing that "NewTravelco" raised $9.8 million.

A Web site for "New Travelco" lists the team and hints at the business, without providing much detail:

"We believe it is still early days in the Internet travel revolution. The increasing power of transparency, connectivity, and mobility will continue to open new worlds to travelers and new channels for suppliers. We believe that a small, passionate team of people can effect massive change."

Venture firms involved include General Catalyst Partners, Bellevue's Ignition Partners and Benchmark Capital, where Barton is a partner.

Cambridge, Mass.-based General Catalyst also backed travel search site, where Slyngstad is a director.

You'd think another travel company would create conflicts for Slyngstad at least, but maybe the Seattle venture isn't another way to sift through schedules and book trips. Kayak's chief executive told travel business site Tnooz that Slyngstad will remain on its board.

The job listing for its business development director says the job involves building revenue from Google Adwords, so maybe ads are going to be more important to the company than commissions.

I wonder if it's going to be some sort of social-sharing-community site for travelers, maybe a place to share travel videos, photos and messages from mobile devices?

Recommendation systems used by travel sites today are getting long in the tooth and don't take advantage of users' increasing connectivity, mobility and expectations of transparency created by YouTube and social media.

Wouldn't be it nice if you could zoom to a location and see a live discussion of current conditions at a hotel, with pictures and video, instead of wading through the old star reviews from anonymous travelers salted with posts by unscrupulous hotel managers?

Then it would be like Zillow and Glassdoor turned to travel, aggregating user-generated content to create a destination reference and referral site for people researching their next trip.

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March 22, 2010 6:00 AM

Video: World record text messager shows his stuff

Posted by Brier Dudley

Here's a video of Franklin Page, the Swype employee who broke the Guiness World Record for text messaging on a touchscreen phone on March 5, showing his technique on a Samsung Omnia II.

A Norwegian holds the record for typing the same prescribed 160-character text message without a touchscreen phone. Sonja Kristiansen texted the message in 37.28 seconds at Oslo City Shopping Centre on Nov. 14, 2009.

The record for fastest typing on a smartphone is held by Pedro Matias of Portugal, who typed a prescribed 264-character text on a QWERTY mobile phone in 1 minute and 59.8 seconds during the LG Worldcup World Championship at Gotham Hall in New York on Jan. 14, according to Guiness.

Here's the Samsung ad featuring Page that's appearing this week:

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March 18, 2010 5:21 PM

New "Lord of the Rings" game from Bothell's Snowblind

Posted by Brier Dudley

One of the higher profile games out of the Seattle area next year may be "Lord of the Rings: War in the North," which Bothell's Snowblind Studios is making for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC.

The 2011 release was announced today by Snowblind's parent company, Warner Brothers, and will be on the cover of PlayStation Magazine's May edition.

Warner is calling it a "mature," epic, multiplayer action-role playing game based on the novels by J.R.R. Tolkien.

"In 'The Lord of the Rings: War in the North,' Snowblind will deliver an action RPG for core gamers featuring authentic narrative and environmental locations from J.R.R. Tolkien's original 'The Lord of the Rings,' " Snowblind founder and studio head Ryan Geithman said in the release. "This game is a natural evolution of the acclaimed RPG gameplay that Snowblind has consistently delivered over the past years. Players and fans will experience an innovative approach to online co-op gameplay, woven throughout every facet of the game in a way that only Snowblind can deliver."

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March 18, 2010 3:58 PM

Early peek at Amazon's amazing new HQ: Pizza, pavilion and more

Posted by Brier Dudley

It was a lovely day to walk down the street and poke around's new headquarters campus that it will begin to occupy next month.

Builders working for developer Paul Allen are putting finishing touches on the centerpiece, a cluster of buildings around an open amphitheater built into the historic Van Vorst building, which used to be a stable for the Frederick & Nelson delivery horses.

Approaching the facade from Boren:


A path to the amphitheater/courtyard:


Looking the other direction (eastward):


Continue reading this post ...

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March 18, 2010 10:37 AM

T-Mobile CEO: Talking to Clearwire about hookup

Posted by Brier Dudley

Move the story about Clearwire and T-Mobile USA hooking from "rumor" to "maybe."

Speaking to investors in Frankfurt today, T-Mobile Chief Executive Robert Dotson confirmed the company's been talking to Clearwire and other companies about joint ventures that would give T-Mobile additional spectrum, Reuters reported.

"We continue to look at JV opportunities for additional spectrum... there are a number of different options we look at, (we) have been talking with cable companies, with Clearwire," Dotson said.

Bloomberg reported in September that T-Mobile's parent, Deutsche Telekom, was in talks with Clearwire and others, but it was using unnamed sources and the companies would not comment at the time.

In clarifying the status today, Dotson also downplayed the chances of a merger with Sprint, saying, "What you never want to do is take one company that is going through challenges and take another company going through challenges."

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March 18, 2010 8:00 AM

Avvo raises $10 million to grow legal referral biz

Posted by Brier Dudley

Seattle lawyer rating and referral startup Avvo raised another $10 million to boost its growth.

The 35-person venture is verging on profitability with strong ad sales lately. But it opted to take the funding to grow more aggressively, Chief Executive Mark Britton said.

"To actually have revenue is something I think investors appreciate in this financing environment," he said.

DAG Ventures of Palo Alto, Calif., led the funding, with earlier Avvo backers Ignition Partners and Benchmark Capital contributing. Altogether the company has raised $23 million since it was conceived in 2006.

Britton said Avvo will use the proceeds for hiring and to expand its service. It lists ratings for 90 percent of U.S. lawyers and 50,000 of them actively participate in the site, including one out of three in Washington, he said.

"Ultimately we feel that there's such an opportunity in legal that now was the time to be more aggressive," he said.

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March 17, 2010 9:01 PM

Zillow's mobile app comes to Android, gets voice search

Posted by Brier Dudley

Zillow's hit mobile real estate search application is coming to the Android platform Thursday, the company announced.


The iPhone version of the application has been downloaded more than 1 million times since it debuted last April, Zillow chief operating officer, Spencer Rascoff, said in the release.

The Android version uses GPS to find and follow users' location and displays Google Street View images of houses, along with sales information and estimated values for 95 million homes in the U.S. It also takes advantage of Android's voice search capability, so users can say an address, neighborhood, Zip code or city to call up that map location.

Zillow is offering the Android app free through the Android Market.

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March 17, 2010 9:01 PM

HTC fires back at Apple, says it will fight lawsuits

Posted by Brier Dudley

Two weeks after being sued by Apple for patent infringement, Taiwanese phone maker HTC is responding with a formal statement defending itself against the allegations.

The company's statement is a prelude to a legal response, still being drafted, that challenges the patent suit Apple filed in federal court, as well as a complaint it made to the International Trade Commission.

An HTC executive at its U.S. headquarters in Bellevue said the company has the support of partners such as Google. That reinforces the notion that Apple's suit is part of a bigger feud under way between tech giants that are all building roughly similar touchscreen smartphones.

"HTC strongly disagrees with Apple's actions," said Jason Mackenzie, vice president of HTC America in Bellevue. "We plan to use all of the legal tools that are at our disposal to both defend ourselves and set the record straight to the general public."

Mackenzie noted that HTC introduced touchscreen smartphones long before Apple's iPhone appeared in 2007.

"We started working on the first touchcscreen smartphone way back in 1999," he said.

That work led to the Pocket PC phone launched in 2002 with Bellevue's VoiceStream Wireless, which is now T-Mobile USA.

Since then, HTC has released more than 50 smartphones and worked with all U.S. phone companies, "vs. one single product at one single carrier," Mackenzie said, in another dig at Apple's iPhone business.

"We would not have achieved what we've achieved today -- including the partnerships weve developed with people like Microsoft, Google, all the U.S. operators, Qualcomm -- if we were a company that did not respect intellectual property rights."

Apple accused HTC of making and selling products that "incorporate, without license, many technologies developed by Apple and protected by patents issued to and owned by Apple and its wholly owned subsidiaries, including NeXT."

It asked the trade commission to block the importation of a number of phones, including the Nexus One that HTC makes for Google, the myTouch 3G sold by T-Mobile, the Droid Eris sold by Verizon and the new HD2 based on Windows Mobile.

Apple's suit specifically calls out phones running the Android platform backed by Google. A Google spokesperson referred by HTC, Jill Hazelbaker, didn't say whether the company would participate in HTC's legal defense, but provided a statement praising HTC for helping to make Android a success.

"The Android platform has seen tremendous adoption all over the world, and we are proud of all our partners who have made it such a success," she said via e-mail. "In less than a year and a half since HTC shipped the first Android device, there are now 26 devices with 60 carriers in 49 countries and 19 languages powered by Android."

Mackenzie wouldn't comment specifically on the lawsuit but said Apple's responding to HTC's success.

"We are experiencing more success than we've ever had in the U.S. market today. We've got great products at all the major operators," he said. "We're obviously having this conversation because of that and because of those successes we've had."

So far the lawsuit hasn't had an effect on HTC's business or plans for upcoming phones.

"I haven't seen any impact to our business since this case,'' he said.

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March 17, 2010 1:44 PM

Ceton's quad TV tuners for PCs coming May 31

Posted by Brier Dudley

Kirkland startup Ceton has finally nailed down a release for its multistream TV tuners for PCs.

The company will begin shipping the four-tuner, $399 PCIe devices on May 31, it announced today. Pre-orders began a few days ago at the several online retailers.

That slipped a bit from the April 1 release date the company announced in January.

Ceton also said the devices will be called "InfiniTV," a name chosen from among more than 1,000 submitted in a "name that tuner card" contest held earlier this year.

Ceton quad card.JPG

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March 17, 2010 10:58 AM

Mobile apps $17B market soon, app seller claims

Posted by Brier Dudley

London-based mobile app seller GetJar created a stir today by releasing a study saying the mobile apps business will grow to $17.5 billion by 2012.

With 4 billion-plus mobile phone users around the world, that suggests an average of $4 per user generated by mobile apps.


Downloads of mobile apps will grow from 7 billion in 2009 to nearly 50 billion in 2012. The value of apps sold would then be greater than sales of music CDs, the study said.

Also predicted is a continuing shift away from "on deck" apps distributed by phone companies toward downloads from app stores, such as GetJar. The study predicted that on-deck applications' share of sales will fall to 23 percent, from 60 percent in 2009.

By 2012, Europe will be a bigger market for apps than the U.S., spending $8.5 billion versus $6.7 billion.

Asia now accounts for the most downloads, but consumers there spend far less on them than North Americans -- they're spending an average of 10 cents per app, vs. the $1.09 spent in this region.

The study predicts the overall average selling price of apps will fall 29 percent, from its current level around $1.90, but ad revenue from apps is expected to stay flat.

GetJar also predicted a shakeout in the number of app stores, which grew from eight to 38 last year and will continue growing this year.

"This report signifies a battle for survival of the fittest among app stores worldwide -- with app revenue and growth opportunities growing significantly," Chief Executive Ilja Laurs said in the release. "There is no way that this many app stores will survive in the long term and while the value of the global app economy is set to be astoundingly high by 2012, we think only a few app stores will share this revenue."

The study was done for GetJar by Issaquah mobile consultant Chetan Sharma. GetJar has other local ties; its vice president of sales, Bill Scott, is a Seattle native who used to work at InfoSpace.

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March 16, 2010 12:07 PM

Microsoft shrinks HD Webcams, adds face tracking

Posted by Brier Dudley

They won't track your body like the Xbox Project Natal, but Microsoft's new Webcams are getting face-tracking technologies developed by the company's advanced research group.

The "TrueColor" technology tracks users' faces, monitors exposure and adjusts the image to compensate for different lighting conditions.

They also have auto focus and 720p sensors. The LifeCam HD-5000 and HD-5001 go on sale this month for $50; the 5001 is a special model for Best Buy with a white faceplate. A rotatable notebook version, the HD-6000, goes on sale in May for $60.

Here's the 5000:


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March 16, 2010 10:17 AM

WTIA hires tech investor Sigl as new CEO

Posted by Brier Dudley

Susan Sigl, a Seattle venture capitalist with experience in wireless, networking, real estate and energy companies, is the new chief executive of the Washington Technology Industry Association, the group announced today.

The University of Washington graduate co-founded SeaPoint Ventures after starting a housing development company and working at energy companies in Texas. Through SeaPoint, she's helped manage startups SNAPin Software, Zumobi, Ground Truth and Ivy Corp.


"The WTIA couldn't be more pleased to have Susan join our executive team," WTIA Chairman Steve Wood said in the release. "She has deep roots in Washington and a real familiarity with the technology industry here. As both an entrepreneur and a venture capitalist, she understands the every-day challenges and opportunities of building and running a successful technology business."

Sigl's also been involved with groups such as the Northwest Entrepreneur Network, Evergreen Venture Capital Association and the Northwest Forum for Women Entrepreneurs and been a visiting faculty member at the UW and Seattle University MBA program.

Sigl said in the release that she wants "to build on the legacy of programs and advocacy that have made the WTIA a valuable partner and champion for Washington's technology companies."

The WTIA's previous chief executive, IBM veteran Ken Myer, announced in January that he's leaving the group after three years.

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March 15, 2010 1:37 PM

Report: Facebook overtakes in U.S.

Posted by Brier Dudley

Experian Hitwise is reporting that Facebook hit a big milestone and passed Google to become the most-visited U.S. Web site during the week that ended March 13.

The research firm said Facebook's share of visits grew 185 percent last week compared with the same period in 2009. visits grew 9 percent. The two sites accounted for 14 percent of U.S. Internet visits last week, it noted.


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March 15, 2010 10:13 AM

Microsoft getting closer to Apple, more clues

Posted by Brier Dudley

(Today's column ...)

Every time I turn around, I'm hearing Microsoft's top brass praising Apple.

It's like seeing a big, white rabbit. Can't everyone see it, right over there?

First it was Steve Ballmer at the University of Washington, praising iTunes' App Store.

Then a few days ago it was Brad Smith, the company's general counsel and senior vice president.

Continue reading this post ...

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March 11, 2010 9:01 PM

WildTangent's ad platform gets social, signs "Tiki Farm"

Posted by Brier Dudley

Redmond game company WildTangent is pushing its "BrandBoost" ad platform into social gaming starting with Facebook hit "Tiki Farm," where players will be able to get virtual items and premium content by watching ads instead of paying with credit cards.

WildTangent is announcing a partnership with Playdom, the Silicon Valley game company behind Tiki Farm, which has up to 7 million monthly players on Facebook.

"It's going to open up the social games arena to household brands, to big brands,'' said Dave Madden, WildTangent executive vice president.

Advertisers such as Kraft, General Mills and Microsoft have sponsored more than 100 million game play sessions using WildTangent's system over the past few years, helping the company grow sales more than 40 percent per year.

Madden said expanding the system to social games should help the company grow sales even more in 2010.

It might also make privately held WildTangent a more attractive acquisition target, if the numbers are as good as Madden expects.

"There's certainly a lot of interest," he said, "but we're loving our growth right now and the excitement [of other companies] partnering with us."

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March 11, 2010 4:55 PM

NPD: Xbox 360 tops dreary February game sales

Posted by Brier Dudley

Retail sales of video games sank in February, falling 15 percent to $1.26 billion, NPD reported today. Game hardware sales fell 20 percent, software was down 15 percent and accessories were down 1 percent.

But there was a silver lining for Microsoft, whose Xbox 360 was the best selling console of the month for the first time since September 2007, when "Halo 3" was released. The company sold 422,000 consoles last month, compared with 360,100 PlayStation 3s sold by Sony and 397,900 Wiis sold by Nintendo. The handheld Nintendo DS sold 613,200 units.

I wonder if next week's arrival of Sony's "God of War III" will give PS3 the top spot in March.
"Bioshock 2" on the 360 was the top selling game, followed by "New Super Mario Bros. Wii" and "Modern Warfare 2" on the 360. NPD said "Modern Warfare 2" has become the third best-selling game ever, with just under 10 million units sold since its launch in November.

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March 11, 2010 11:11 AM

Video: Sony's PS3 Move, with a Wiimote

Posted by Brier Dudley

Sony finally shared details of the new PlayStation 3 motion control system that's going to battle it out with Microsoft's Project Natal (and the Wii) this holiday season.

The word from San Francisco, where it was shown last night at the Game Developers Conference, is that it's fun to play.

But it sure looks familar -- just like Wii controllers, including a primary controller topped with a ball that reminds me of the Jack in the Box antenna globes. A secondary controller is pretty close to the Wii nunchuck, but with Bluetooth wireless instead of a cable.

Starter kits with a sensor and a game will cost less than $100.

Here's a Sony video with game demonstrations via Joystiq, which has a big roundup on the gadget.

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March 11, 2010 9:46 AM

Paul Allen's Evri buys SF's Radar Networks

Posted by Brier Dudley

It's a big day for Seattle-based Evri. The Paul Allen-funded "semantic Web" media company relaunched today with new visual features, and it acquired San Francisco-based Radar Networks.

Evri was especially interested in Radar's, another semantic Web company with more social and sharing features that complement Evri, which automatically compiles streams of Web material related to a broad set of topics. Media companies have added Evri's widget to their sites, where it presents links to related information about a story.

Twine's 10 employees will move into Evri's San Francisco offices. Terms of the deal weren't disclosed. A spokesman said Evri, which has about 30 employees, isn't planning to move its headquarters to San Francisco.

Evri Chief Executive Will Hunsinger's comment in the release:

"Evri's and Radar Network's combined talent and complementary technologies bring the industry closer to delivering on the promise of a truly intelligent, timely and intuitive way of finding the news and content that matters most to people. With this acquisition, Evri takes a significant leap forward toward delivering on the consumer promise of semantic search technologies - more meaningful, relevant results filtered from the ever-growing and increasingly cluttered fire hose of content on the web."

Radar Chief Executive Nova Spivack will remain with the company in an advisory role.

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March 10, 2010 3:08 PM

Maveron sells Kinetix to Regence BlueShield in "successful exit"

Posted by Brier Dudley

A selling price wasn't disclosed, but Seattle venture firm Maveron said it had "a successful exit in the wellness sector," selling Kinetix Living to Regence BlueShield of Washington.

Seattle-based Kinetix provides health and nutrition programs and an online wellness community for companies and individuals. The company has 40 employees who will all stay with the company, a spokeswoman said.

"Maveron is pleased with the outcome for both its investors and the company and the employees who they believe will all be well served by the sale to Regence,'' Kim Hughes said via email.

Maveron, started by Starbucks Chairman Howard Schultz and Dan Levitan, has about $750 million invested in 22 portfolio companies.

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March 10, 2010 2:45 PM

Fishkin's hard look at ROI of Twitter, social media

Posted by Brier Dudley

I'm a little late writing about this, but I keep thinking about a blog entry that Seattle SEO guru Rand Fishkin posted a few days ago, analyzing the ROI on social media marketing.

Fishkin said the traffic and response from using Twitter, Facebook and other community sites is immediate and gratifying. But he warns that they can drain time and energy away from other online efforts with greater monetary payback.

His hypothesis is that most marketers engaging in social media aren't doing it because it produces greater return on investment "but because the metrics are more immediately tangible and emotionally rewarding."

Of course, Fishkin is in the business of supporting search engine marketers, but it's still a thoughtful take on the currently hyped phenomenon. An excerpt:

Social media engagement, whether it's building a name for yourself on Twitter, growing your connections on Facebook, increasing the number of followers on Digg or ratcheting up your popularity in a niche service or forum, produces some very compelling results. Changing some title tags, tweaking internal links or writing an article on a boring, business-relevant subject may bring more direct financial ROI per hour invested, but the metrics don't FEEL as emotionally rewarding.

Twitter generated 14,928 visits to his site during one period (compared with 666,642 from Google) that he shared to support his theory.

"That's huge, right?

Here's the problem... It's also the lowest converting traffic of any referral source -- less than half that of aggregate Google referrals.

I grant that direct referrals are never the whole story, and that there is real branding, marketing and user acquisition value to the traffic, participation and effort spent in social media. What I worry about is whether these intangibles are worth the expenditure."

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March 10, 2010 9:25 AM

Glaser on mobile biz, Apple and the Sesame Street problem

Posted by Brier Dudley

In his first public speech since stepping down as chief executive of RealNetworks in January, Rob Glaser addressed the Mobile Breakfast event at the Seattle Marriott this morning, talking about changes he sees over the next five to 10 years.

Glaser said the rise of "superphones," mobile applications and the digitization of our lives (as described by John Battelle's "database of intentions") have created several business opportunities to pursue.

One is around the notion of "digital persistence," the expectation that once you create something digital you expect it to be available everywhere. Another involves providing users with universal access to their digital content across different devices. The third is making it easy to search and discover content.

"There's no question we're getting to that phase where consumers are going to expect this stuff, 'it just works everywhere,' " he said.

As an example, he mentioned an incident last year with his son, who was then 2 1/2 years old. They were in the bathroom watching "Sesame Street" on a TV that didn't have a digital video recorder attached.

The son prefers the animated portions of the show over the live action segments, one of which came on while they were in the bathroom.

"My son looked at me and said, 'Make it go back, go back.' I explained to him this is regular television; regular televison doesn't go back," Glaser said.

"The kids that are born this millenium -- they just assume all this stuff, that it's a cloud of video, they can go back and get it."

Still to be determined is whether the next evolution will come from vertical companies like Apple or a more open, horizontal industry approach. Glaser argued that the vertical approach will result in a "much lower pace of innovation."

To avoid having carriers become commoditized into dumb pipes and handset manufacturers scrambling for the low end of the market "it's incumbent for all of us to work together and reach across segments ... otherwise vertical's going to remain on the march."

Despite Apple's huge success, it's still unclear which approach is going to dominate in the coming years.

"I dont think it's inevitable which way its going to go -- it's still very much a jump ball," he said.

"Whereas the PC went horizontal and the MP3 player went vertical, I think it's an open question whether the industry pulls together and makes the horizontal experience as good," he added later.

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March 10, 2010 8:38 AM

Former FCC boss on feds' free wireless proposal

Posted by Brier Dudley

At a Mobile Breakfast event at the Seattle Marriott today, former FCC chairman, Kevin Martin, is giving a preview of what to expect from the federal broadband plan the FCC will release Tuesday. Martin's now at law and lobbying firm Patton Boggs.

Commenting on yesterday's disclosure that the FCC may offer free wireless broadband access, Martin said it's probably similar to a proposal he put forward to add a free broadband provision to spectrum sales, requiring wireless companies to provide free baseline service in return for paying slightly less for the spectrum.

"I imagine some form of that is what they're talking about," he said.

Additional spectrum sales will be a component of the broadband plan, he said. Martin said the spectrum available for mobile data is being overwhelmed by dramatic increases in usage. During his term spectrum for mobile data usage was nearly tripled but "exponential increases in data will outstrip that soon," he said.

Martin said the goal is to find 500 Mhz of additional broadband spectrum. For comparison current carriers are using about 450 Mhz "so you're talking about almost doubling the current allocation again."

One approach may be to use spectrum now held by broadcasters, perhaps with an auction where broadcasters can return their spectrum to the government and get a share of proceeds from the auction.

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March 9, 2010 9:00 PM

Google Maps gets bike routes, built in Fremont

Posted by Brier Dudley

Google engineers who built the company's new bicycle route mapping service didn't need to look far for inspiration.

The team is based at the Fremont office right alongside the Burke Gilman Trail. This screenshot of the bike route feature shows the office at left:

burke screenshot.JPG

Continue reading this post ...

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March 9, 2010 12:46 PM

Real guitar time for "Guitar Hero" genre

Posted by Brier Dudley

It had to happen eventually: Mock guitars are giving way to real ones in a new "Guitar Hero" type game announced today by a game studio affiliated with instrument maker First Act.

A specially designed electric guitar for "Power Gig: Rise of the SixString" will take input along its neck. It will also be playable as a real instrument that can be connected to a standard guitar amp.


" 'Power Gig: Rise of the SixString' is meant to be the answer for all of those gamers who have wanted to take their band game experience to the next level; we're confident that players will agree that the transition from the existing games is both seamless and exhilarating," Seven45 Studios CEO Bernard Chiu said in the release.

The game is coming to the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in the fall. A preview is being shown today at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.

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March 9, 2010 11:56 AM

FCC mulling free wireless broadband for public

Posted by Brier Dudley

The FCC is considering whether to use publicly owned spectrum to provide free or low-cost wireless broadband service, according to a Reuters report today:

One way of making broadband more affordable is to "consider use of spectrum for a free or a very low cost wireless broadband service," the FCC said in a statement.

A recommendation will come in the National Broadband Plan due next week, with details to be sorted out later, the report said.

Free federal wireless broadband was mentioned in a statement released at the "Digital Inclusion Summit" in Washington, D.C. Most of its proposals focused on educating people to increase "digital literacy."

The upcoming broadband plan should increase home broadband use from 65 percent of homes to 90 percent by 2020, the FCC statement said.

"In order to ensure long term American competitiveness and prosperity, we must not leave one-third of the nation behind," FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said in the release. "The National Broadband Plan provides a vision for federal, state and local leadership and partnerships with the private and non-profit communities that will bridge the digital divide and transform America into a nation where broadband expands opportunities for all."

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March 9, 2010 9:21 AM

Microsoft's Thacker wins Turing Award

Posted by Brier Dudley

One of the fathers of the PC industry, Microsoft researcher Chuck Thacker, won the industry's highest honor, the A.M. Turing Award from the Association for Computing Machinery.

Thacker, 67, was among the founding members of the famed Xerox Palo Alto Research Center, where he designed the Alto system that gave shape to the personal computer in the early 1970s.

"Charles Thacker's contributions have earned him a reputation as one of the most distinguished computer systems engineers in the history of the field," ACM President Professor Dame Wendy Hall said in the announcement. "His enduring achievements--from his initial innovations on the PC to his leadership in hardware development of the multiprocessor workstation to his role in developing the tablet PC--have profoundly affected the course of modern computing."

He's the second person to receive $250,000 award for his contributions designing and building computing machinery; it usually goes to computer scientists for conceptual or theoretical work, a writeup at Microsoft's press site noted.

"I was extremely surprised," Thacker said in the release. "I never expected to win this one. There are several other nice awards that I've won that I thought were within the realm of possibility, but this one I never even thought was possible."

Thacker was nominated by Butler Lampson, another computing pioneer now working at Microsoft Research. The company provided an excerpt of his nomination letter:

"Chuck is surely one of the most distinguished computer-systems engineers in the history of the field. Chuck is an engineer's engineer. His skills span the full range, from analog-circuit and power-supply design through logic design, processor and network architecture, system software, languages, and applications as varied as CAD and electronic books, all the way to user-interface design."

The award was sponsored by Google and Intel. Intel Labs vice president, Andrew Chien, said in the release that "Charles Thacker's design of the Alto computer embodied the key elements of today's personal computers, and is at the root one of the world's most innovative industries that empowers individuals around the world. We applaud Chuck's clarity of insight, focus on simplicity, and his incredible track record of designing landmark systems that have accelerated the progress of both research and industry for decades."

Google research vice president, Alfred Spector, praised Thacker "for his far-reaching role in the birth of one of the most important technologies in the 20th century."

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March 8, 2010 4:30 PM

Paul Allen battling former investment handlers over $$$$

Posted by Brier Dudley

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen is not only fighting cancer and the struggles of his biggest investment, Charter Communications, but he's also sparring with two former investment managers over their compensation.

Allen on Monday filed legal motions in King County Superior Court to dismiss an arbitration award granting at least $20 million to two investment managers he fired in October 2008.

David Capobianco and Navin Thukkarm were managers in the private equity group of Allen's Vulcan holding company.

Their compensation included a percentage of the profit they generated for Vulcan, which was paid out over time. A final 20 percent of the payout came when investments had an exit, such as a sale.

At issue in the case is their share of the profit made from Vulcan's investment in energy company Plains All American. Their lawyer said Allen made $1 billion on the venture and then dismissed the entire investment staff before they received their full share, cutting off their profit-sharing plan.

Vulcan is arguing, in part, that the two managers weren't eligible for the last 20 percent of their share because there hadn't been an exit at the time they left. But a panel of three arbitrators unanimously granted the award, starting with an initial decision last July.

Vulcan is challenging the panel's decision, arguing that the process was compromised because the arbitrator chosen by the claimants had met with them in late 2008, before being named to the panel.

"It's really inexplicable how those sorts of contacts with the claimants were not reported," Vulcan spokesman Dave Postman said.

The arbitrator in question, Art Harrigan, is a prominent Seattle lawyer who represented Craig McCaw in the formation of Nextel Partners, the Port of Seattle in airport noise battles, and King County when it sued to block the Seahawks from moving to California (before the team was owned by Allen).

Harrigan couldn't be reached for comment, but Richard Yarmuth, the lawyer for Capobianco and Thukkarm, said nothing untoward happened.

Vulcan's lawyers already tried and failed in making the same argument to an arbitration judge, Terry Lukens, Yarmuth said.

"Sometimes people don't accept losing very graciously," he said.

Lukens decided in January that Allen's motion to disqualify Harrigan "is based on an unproven supposition that something untoward must have happened during the pre-selection meetings with candidate Harrigan. There are no facts presented to support this supposition."

Lukens conclusion: "There is no evidence of bias or improper influence in the final, unanimous Award."

In Monday's filings, Vulcan's lawyers are asking the Superior Court to overrule Lukens and dismiss the award, arguing that their side was denied a fair process.

Yarmuth simultaneously filed a motion Monday asking the court to uphold the award, saying the arbitration panel concluded that Vulcan breached its profit-sharing agreement with the employees.

Vulcan's side is also challenging the arbitrators' decision that Vulcan improperly changed its compensation plan by firing the investment group staff and rehiring four of them.

It contends the employees were at-will workers who could be fired.

(Note: This post is updated to include the content of the story that ran in print)

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March 8, 2010 3:29 PM

Valve gives Mac first-tier gaming status, Portal 2

Posted by Brier Dudley

Bellevue's Valve Software may get credit for the next jump in Mac market share.

The company today announced that it's extending its hugely popular Steam game distribution service to the Mac platform, which has long had relatively few games compared with Windows PCs. Steam and Valve's library, including "Left 4 Dead 2," "Counter-Strike," "Team Fortress 2" and the "Half-LIfe" series, are coming to the Mac in April.

Valve is also going to release future versions of its games on the Mac simultaneous with their release on the PC and Xbox platforms starting in the holiday season with "Portal 2," a sequel to the hit puzzle game initially developed at Redmond's DigiPen Institute of Technology.

"As we transition from entertainment as a product to entertainment as a service, customers and developers need open, high-quality Internet clients," Gabe Newell, Valve president, said in the release. "The Mac is a great platform for entertainment services."

Valve's Steam service will let players switch between Mac and PC versions at no extra charge.

John Cook, director of Steam development, explained further in the release:

"We looked at a variety of methods to get our games onto the Mac and in the end decided to go with native versions rather than emulation. The inclusion of WebKit into Steam, and of OpenGL into Source gives us a lot of flexibility in how we move these technologies forward. We are treating the Mac as a tier-1 platform so all of our future games will release simultaneously on Windows, Mac, and the Xbox 360. Updates for the Mac will be available simultaneously with the Windows updates. Furthermore, Mac and Windows players will be part of the same multiplayer universe, sharing servers, lobbies, and so forth. We fully support a heterogeneous mix of servers and clients. The first Mac Steam client will be the new generation currently in beta testing on Windows."

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March 8, 2010 1:54 PM

Allrecipes fires up "Man Tested Recipes," Dude Food contest

Posted by Brier Dudley

Beef, bacon, beer and butter figure heavily at, a site launched today by Seattle's

Naturally the launch sponsor is Seattle-based Bacon Salt. I'm guessing Lipitor will be next.

Allrecipes Chief Executive Lisa Sharples said the new site is "the genuine voice of men and what they want in food."

"Our research shows men genuinely enjoy cooking but have uniquely masculine interests and tastes; they deserve a dedicated and authentic community to connect with each other," she said in the release.

The site is similar to Allrecipes' user-generated format but with more social features for friendly men, such as tagging, friending and following. Users also get a "fridge" similar to a Facebook wall, on which people can post messages.

To get things going, there's a "Dude Food" recipe contest through April 30, encouraging visitors to "boast about your roast" and compete for a $500 prize.


Allrecipes said the site was inspired by market research, including comScore findings that 36 percent of community food site visitors are male and Allrecipes findings that 70 percent of men "were more interested in visiting a men's food site than a general food site," the release said.

Other findings from its research, pulled from the release:

Continue reading this post ...

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March 8, 2010 12:03 PM

Google Labs visualizes Seattle's Tableau with "Data Explorer"

Posted by Brier Dudley

A month after Seattle's Tableau Software launched a free online tool for creating and sharing dynamic data visualization charts, Google Labs has announced a free online tool for creating and sharing dynamic data visualization charts.

Like Tableau Public, Google's "Public Data Explorer" comes as the federal government is posting huge buckets of data online through its transparency project, stoking demand for tools to analyze and present the information.

But there are a few big differences in what's being offered to end users.

Google's experiment is relatively closed and seems aimed at building partnerships with public agencies as much as providing free Web tools. At this point its tools can only be used to analyze a handful of datasets that Google's procured from public sources. Google's asking agencies to suggest additional data that it can upload and publish on its platform.

Tableau already has partnerships with agencies using its commercial visualization tools in-house. The free public version released last month is more open than Google's and can be used on any data. Users of the free version also have to share the underlying data via the visualization, while Google's tool doesn't yet allow the data to be downloaded directly.

Here's an example of a visualization created with Google's new tool:

Here's a Tableau Public visualization blending unemployment with venture capital and housing data:

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March 4, 2010 5:50 PM

Video: Microsoft's Steve Ballmer at UW

Posted by Brier Dudley

Here's Steve Ballmer's speech at the UW this morning, in a video released by Microsoft. In addition to Ballmer, it has demos of new Bing maps features, a peek at a Windows Mobile 7 phone and a funny video joking about the term "cloud computing."

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March 4, 2010 2:56 PM

Microsoft's Ballmer to UW students: E-mail me for a job

Posted by Brier Dudley

Cloud computing was the focus of Steve Ballmer's talk at the University of Washington today, but the Microsoft chief executive was also doing a little recruiting.

Ballmer told the packed house at the computer science department's Paul G. Allen Center that Microsoft is the area's biggest local employer and "we'd love to have you."

"Send me a resume if you want to test that proposition,'' he said.

Microsoft hires more than 100 UW graduates a hear, said Mark Emmert, the school's president. But it's not clear how many found work by e-mailing

A few pictures I took at the event with my phone, including autographs:



And a fuel truck next to one of Ballmer's show-and-tells: a "cloud in a box" portable data center parked outside Allen Center. The fuel was going into a portable generator:


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March 4, 2010 2:29 PM

Glimpses of Microsoft's "Pink" phone, finally

Posted by Brier Dudley

Microsoft's loving Gizmodo lately.

Steve Ballmer displayed Gizmodo's gushing take on the upcoming Windows 7 phone during his speech at UW today.

Meanwhile, the gadget blog has an early glimpse of Microsoft's "Pink" phone, which its sources say is coming to Verizon in April and built by Sharp. Here's a screenshot from the blog:

PInk phone.JPG

The long-awaited consumer phone is geared toward avid social networkers, apparently aiming for the spot the Sidekick had early on. Pink is the product of the Sidekick development team, which Microsoft acquired in February 2008.

Also coming with Pink is a more horizontal version (his and hers?) called Pure. Gizmodo's report says they're based on a version of Windows CE.

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March 3, 2010 12:50 PM

Joel Spolsky to stop blogging, says it's not so great after all

Posted by Brier Dudley

The famous "Joel on Software" blog is coming to an end on March 17, author Joel Spolsky announced in his Inc. magazine column.

Spolsky, a former manager on Microsoft's Excel team, used the blog to promote his New York-based company, Fog Creek Software, and created a resource for programmers that drew more than a million visits a month.

Blogging was great for Fog Creek, in the early days. But Spolsky now questions whether it's the best use of time for entrepreneurs and companies.

Spolsky's candid analysis could be a revelation -- or a relief -- to companies that feel left behind or frantic to catch up to the latest social media tools. It may also help some calibrate their mix of offline vs. online marketing, if the poster child for promotional blogging now says he overemphasized the online medium.

Spolsky said his success with the medium was unique and, in retrospect, he was putting a lot of effort into reaching a relatively narrow audience. He advised entrepreneurs to consider blogging less about themselves and their products and more about topics that will interest a wider audience and perhaps turn some into customers.

A few excerpts:

"Well, it worked brilliantly for me, but the more I've looked around, the more I've noticed that plenty of start-ups have managed to get customers and grow nicely without devoting a huge chunk of their early years to building a cool blog.

What's more, I have trouble pointing to other successful entrepreneurs who have used the same formula and reaped the same dividends I have.

The big-hit technology companies from the past 10 years tend to have pathetic blogs. Twitter's blog, like Facebook's and Google's, is full of utterly boring press releases rewritten to sound a little bit less stuffy. Apple's employees produce virtually no blogs, even though the company has introduced several game-changing new products in the past decade. Meanwhile, hundreds of Microsoft's employees have amazing blogs, but these have done nothing to stave off that company's slide into stodginess."

On the limited reach:

"The best evidence also suggests that there are many other effective ways to market Fog Creek's products -- and that our historical overreliance on blogging as a marketing channel has meant that we've ignored them. I realize now that blogging made me, and Fog Creek, a big fish in a very small pond. As a result, we have the undisputed No. 1 product among the 5 percent to 10 percent of programmers who regularly read blogs about programming. Meanwhile, we're almost unknown in every other demographic."

Don't get him started on Twitter:

"Awful, evil, must die, CB radio, sorry with only 140 chars I can't tell you why."

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March 3, 2010 9:55 AM

Gas Powered launches "Supreme Commander 2"

Posted by Brier Dudley

Redmond's Gas Powered Games today launched "Supreme Commander 2," a new version of its hit real-time strategy game for the PC.

Players command and customize massive land, sea and air battles with hundreds of individual units, plus 27 "experimental" battle machines.

Gas Powered's also releasing a version for the Xbox 360 on March 16, the first time the company has developed a console version of the game in-house.

Real-time strategy games are a niche market but they've been a profitable one for Gas Powered, especially as other game companies have shifted their focus to broader markets.

"A lot of people have walked away from this market and we see it being wide open now," said founder Chris Taylor (pictured).
Chris Taylor.JPG

The "Supreme Commander" franchise has sold 1.5 million copies, including around 800,000 when the last version was released in 2007. Taylor's hoping "Supreme Commander 2" will sell at least a million copies.

Gas Powered recently employed around 55 people but Taylor's expecting to let 10 to 12 go after the game's released, as work slows between releases.

"It's nothing like Hollywood but there are some similarities - you build a production team, you make a movie and then you disband," he said.

Fortunately Gas Powered already got another huge project in the works. Taylor revealed last month that the company's using its RTS technology to build a new franchise called "Kings and Castles" with kings vying for control of a medieval fantasy world.

Meanwhile Japanese publisher Square Enix is releasing "Supreme Commander 2," which retails for $49.99 and is rated E10 for players 10 or older.

A few screenshots:



Here's a Gas Powered video of Taylor introducing team members now working on "Kings and Castles":

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March 2, 2010 11:22 AM

Microsoft TechFest video, pics: 3-D gestures, X-ray Surface and more

Posted by Brier Dudley

Here are a few pictures and videos from yesterday's TechFest preview hosted by Microsoft Chief Research and Strategy Officer Craig Mundie.

Here's a video of Mundie demonstrating a 3-D climate-change model that's controlled with gestures and voice commands. The model was created with the Microsoft Computational Science Studio, a research tool for quickly building and visualizing complex models with massive datasets, developed at the company's lab at Cambridge University. (The video doesn't do justice to the 3-D presentation, but you can see the gesture and voice control in action.)

A charging tray in Microsoft's eHome prototype gallery that also displays information from devices such as watches and phones:


Jonathan Cluts, general manager of eHome, showing a display system that projects a kids' party game onto a dining room table. Each guest can fly a biplane around the table, controlling them by holding their hands over controls projected at their "place setting." A scene with planes zooming around is also projected onto the wall:


The "Project Gustav" demonstration at TechFest, with realistic brush deformation captured on an input tablet:


A working prototype of the "Cloud Mouse" for navigating cloud computing interfaces:


Demonstrating how a doctor could use a Surface computer to analyze images and compare them with images drawn from the Web is Dr. Michael Gillam, director of Microsoft's Healthcare Innovation Lab in Washington, D.C.


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March 2, 2010 9:49 AM

Apple sues HTC over iPhone, after Android gold rush story

Posted by Brier Dudley

I wonder if the timing of Apple's lawsuit against HTC over iPhone patents has anything to do with an Android developer that surfaced this week.

HTC is the primary manufacturer of Google Android phones, which have been on sale since late 2008.

Apple has dominated mobile developer mindshare with the iPhone's App Store. But that story began to wobble over the past year or so as developers realized they weren't making as much money as they thought they would.

Then on Monday, word, came that the gold rush is now happening on the Android platform.

At least it is for Eddie Kim, who told the world he's making $13,000 a month selling his "Car Locator' app for Android.

The headline on "Watch Out, iPhone Devs: One-Man Android App Nets $13K Monthly."

"There's money to be made there, and the userbase is only getting bigger," gushed the RWW blog, which is influential with developers.

Apple surely has been exploring the patent suit for some time, but is it a coincidence the filing comes a day after Android finally gets its Klondike Kim story?

HTC is based in Taiwan but its U.S. headquarters -- named in the suit -- are in Bellevue. Its software interfaces targeted in the suit were probably partly developed in HTC's secretive (and Apple friendly)Pioneer Square software development lab. A picture I took last year in the lab:


Apple came out with its horns blowing, issuing a press release with a sharp statement from Steve Jobs:

"We can sit by and watch competitors steal our patented inventions, or we can do something about it. We've decided to do something about it," Jobs said in the release. "We think competition is healthy, but competitors should create their own original technology, not steal ours."

Who knows who stole what, but squabbling over patents is a cornerstone of the tech industry. Most every player -- including Apple -- has been found to have poached someone's technology at one point or another.

An HTC spokesman in Bellevue said the company is still digesting the suit. He provided a statement noting that HTC "is a mobile technology innovator and patent holder that has been very focused over the past 13 years on creating many of the most innovative smartphones" and "values patent rights and their enforcement but is also committed to defending its own technology innovations."

The statement:

"HTC only learned of Apple's actions this morning via media reports, and therefore we have not yet had the opportunity to investigate the filings. Until we have had this opportunity, we are unable to comment on the validity of the claims being made against HTC."

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March 1, 2010 12:52 PM

Microsoft TechFest video & demos: Muscles instead of mice

Posted by Brier Dudley

The TechFest preview included visits to handful of booths set up in Microsoft's on-campus conference center showing research done in Redmond and at labs in Europe and Asia.

One focused on prototype input systems worn on the arm, including one called "Skinput" that projected virtual buttons onto the skin, so a computer could be controlled with taps along an arm or even on the side of a coffee cup held in the hand.

Microsoft researcher Desney Tan demonstrated a system using armbands with muscle sensors that worked as computer interfaces. Instead of clicking a button or touching a screen, users move their fingers and hands to control input and the bands worked by sensing muscle activity.

Tan demonstrated the system by playing "air guitar" to control the "Guitar Hero" game.
There was no word on when the arm devices could become real products, but Rick Rashid, senior vice president of research, noted that this sort of prototype demonstration leads to products such as the Xbox Natal controller.

Other demonstrations included a system for realistically rendering brush strokes on a computer, using sensors in a pad on which the user "paints," and a gyroscopic "cloud mouse" used for navigating 3D interfaces that may be used to present rich data from online "cloud" services.

Researchers also showed a phone system that simultaneously transcribes and translates voice conversations in real time. The transcription feature is coming soon to Microsoft's Exchange messaging system but the translation feature is still being developed.

A remote datacenter handles the translation and transcription so the service works with most any device, and it continuously trains itself to better understand individual users.

Here's Tan demonstrating the "Always Available Input With Muscle Computer Interfaces":

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March 1, 2010 10:39 AM

Microsoft TechFest: Natal details, 3-D and more

Posted by Brier Dudley

Microsoft's annual TechFest science fair this week will be closed to all but employees but research boss Craig Mundie is giving a small preview today to a handful of reporters, outlining broad trends in software and computing the company expects to see in coming years.

Mundie is explaining how computing's evolving from its graphical user interface to natural user interfaces such as speech, touch and voice.

"The two things will become a lot more complementary," he explained after several showing several prototype systems as Microsoft's home of the future demonstration facility.

Mundie said he's also expecting 3-D systems to "bring together the phyisical and cyber world and intersect with them."

This is happening not just in movies but in imaging, such as Bing systems that blend online photos of places to create 3-D models of places that can be explored with a mouse.

But the clearest leap is likely to be Microsoft's Project Natal system for the Xbox 360, which was also demonstrated during the session using a near-final version of the hardware, set to go on sale this holiday season.

Xbox exec Don Mattrick declined to provide retail pricing but lots of details of the Natal technology were provided.

Photos were prohibited, but the hardware is a smoother, larger version of the developer version that was released last year. The current iteration is about 10 inches long, in white plastic with tapered ends like a 2 x 2 with miter cuts, on a white base with the same design as the current Xbox Live Vision camera accessory.

Microphones for sound recognition were on the underneath plane, and the plane facing players had three sensors. One is a light projector used to ensure the system performs despite lighting conditions in a room. Another is a color Webcam sensor and the third is a black and white CMOS sensor used to monitor depth in the room.

The system operates at 30 frames per second and uses its readings and motion analysis to calculate likely actions players are taking in real time, with an algorithm that uses less processing power than a cellphone.

Also shown were the latest features of the Microsoft home, including several demonstrations that added health management systems based on Microsoft's HealthVault platform. A watch placed on a sensor plate displayed recent activity and goals, and a touchscreen computer in the kitchen called up a personal health console with news about the user's condition, schedules and the ability to slide a timeline forward to predict future health based on current activity and medications.

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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.