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April 28, 2006

Jeepers, creepers, where'd you get those ii

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 3:07 PM

Nintendo said it has named its new video game console "Wii," pronounced "we."

Up until now, it has been known by its code-name "Revolution." As an introduction to the new name, Nintendo's Web site shows a bunch of dancing i's hitting dots around like pingpongs balls.

"While the code-name 'revolution' expressed our direction, Wii represents the answer. Wii will break down that wall that separates video game players from everybody else. Wii will put people more in touch with their games ... and each other."

Well, "We" think it looks an awful lot like Intel's new platform -- Viiv. Was there a surplus of i's at the naming factory?

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Mother of all IT deals

Posted by Monica Soto at 10:12 AM

Plano, Texas-based EDS today announced a seven-year, $1.7 billion global IT services agreement with Kraft Foods.

EDS will support Kraft in 72 countries, with services such as data centers, hosting, telecommunications anad workplace support centers starting in June.

Its partners, including Dell, Microsoft and Cisco, will provide hardware and software to Kraft. Roughly 670 Kraft employees globally will transfer to EDS as part of the deal.

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April 27, 2006

NetMotion making moves

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 1:33 PM

Seattle-based NetMotion Wireless, which develops security products for wireless, said today that it services 18 major utilities.

The new customers include electric, natural gas, water and sewer utilities with deployments as large as 4,000 mobile devices. Among them are Arizona Public Service, Atlanta Gas & Light, Con Edison, Dominion Resources, Jacksonville Electric Authority, Kansas City Power & Light, Pentair Water, Philadelphia Gas Works, Puget Sound Energy, Sacramento Water and Sewer District, Terasen Gas, Truckee Meadows Water and Western Gas Resources.

"We nearly doubled NetMotion's revenue and seat count over the past year," said Andy Willett, NetMotion's senior vice president of sales. "Our success with utilities customers has been a big part of that growth and this is just one of the markets from which we expect continued success throughout 2006."

In March, a jury in the U.S. District Court of Delaware found NetMotion's product infringed on specific patent claims of two patents held by a company called Padcom. The company said it was developing a new version of its product that would not infringe on these patents.

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Nextel Partners' partner fired

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 12:48 PM

Kirkland-based Nextel Partners said yesterday it fired Chief Operating Officer James Ryder effective last Thursday.

Spokeswoman Susan Johnston said the termination was "due to internal company matters" and emphasized that it was not related to Nextel Partner's financials or its pending sale to Sprint Nextel.

In April last year, Ryder, who had been with the company since 2000, was promoted from vice president of sales and marketing to chief operating officer. In his position, Ryder was directed to manage sales, marketing and people development and lead more than 850 employees nationwide.

Nextel Partners resells Nextel-branded services in rural and small-to-midsize markets. The company's sale to Sprint Nextel is pending Federal Communication Commission approval, which is expected by the end of June.

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Dijji to revise financial statements

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 12:21 PM

Seattle-based Dijji, formerly called Dwango Wireless, said today that expenses were understated by a total of $5.5 million in 2003 and 2004.

The company, which helps Rolling Stone and Playboy sell mobile content, said financial statements from those years should no longer be relied upon.

In March, Dijji said it was unable to file its annual report on time because it was considering strategic alternatives, inccluding a sale or liquidation..

The company expects to file new financial statements in a Form 10-KSB with the Securities & Exchange Commission within the next two to three business days.

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New playmates?

Posted by Monica Soto at 12:17 PM

Will and ever play together again?

We wrote about Amazon's efforts to reinstate the long-time, embattled partnership.

But PiperJaffray analyst Aaron Kessler wrote in a research note today that it appears Toys 'R Us might have chosen GSIC to power its Web site, once its partnership with Amazon ends June 30.

Toys R Us Deal Appears Likely. While GSIC did not comment on whether it has won the Toys R Us Deal from Amazon, we believe it is highly likely that is has. GSIC noted they will build a new call center this year and has plans for a new warehouse in 2007, which we believe will be used to support a customer the size of Toys R Us. In terms of financial impact, we believe Toys R Us was generating at least $50M in fees for Amazon a year. While we do not expect the Toys R us deal to be this lucrative for GSIC, we believe it would be very material to both revenues and earnings. We would not be surprised to see Toys R Us add $10-$15M to our 2007 EBITDA estimate.

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Ad-supported Xbox Live?

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano at 11:11 AM

In reporting on Microsoft's rumored acquisition of in-videogame advertising purveyor Massive, I came across an interesting poll at that sheds light on gamers' opinions about ads in their games.

Xbox Live, which currently costs $50 a year for a Gold membership, is a natural platform to deliver advertising to a demographic group that's spending less time with traditional media channels.

Of the 1,949 Joystiq poll respondents who described themselves as current Gold subscribers, those willing to continue paying to avoid seeing ads outnumbered by nearly 2-to-1 those who would accept ads if the fee were dropped.

In addition, 452 people, or 12 percent of respondents, said they "do not subscribe to Xbox Live Gold, but would sign up if it were free but ad supported."

The poll, conducted online in January, is by Joystiq's admission, unscientific and susceptible to hacks.

Gamer tolerance for advertising is a critical question. The industry hasn't figured out how much advertising is too much. But somebody's going to cross that line and get burned, industry watchers said.

"I think we'll see marketers push it too far at some point and gamers will probably fight back, there will be a bit of a backlash," said Jeff Lanctot, vice president and general manger of Avenue A | Razorfish.

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VCs want to compete globally

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 11:02 AM

The National Venture Capital Association (NVCA) announced a program today called Maximizing America's Growth for the Nation's Entrepreneurs and Technologists (MAGNET USA) to try and strengthen the country's competitiveness in the world.

MAGNET USA will have four priorities: creating a larger home-grown pool of mathematicians and scientists; attracting and retaining of talent; supporting research funding; and accessing growth capital.

MAGNET USA will support these priorities through public education programs, public affairs initiatives, political advocacy and leadership at the national and community levels.

"The present environment in the U.S. is simply not as conducive to nurturing innovation as it once was for a number of economic, social and political reasons. Despite these challenges, NVCA believes that the global innovation lead is still America's to lose, and that the initiatives necessary to address these issues are not merely defensive, but also offer opportunities to increase U.S. competitive leadership for decades to come," said Mark Heesen, president of the NVCA.

The committee, launched at the group's annual meeting in San Jose today, is made up of roughly half-dozen VCs, including Chad Waite, partner at OVP Venture Partners in Kirkland.

He joins new NVCA elected Chair Bob Grady of The Carlyle Group, Heidi Roizen of Mobius, Joe Aragona of Austin Ventures and others.

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Wireless Services' fresh powder

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 10:41 AM

Yesterday, Bellevue-based Wireless Services announced that it acquired Mobile Media for an undisclosed sum to get into the business of delivering high-end content to mobile phones.

To purchase the company, it had to raise money from its venture capitalists. Although CEO Rich Begert was mum on that number, too, he told Dow Jones VentureWire today that the round -- when it finally closed -- would be around $35 million, making the purchase price somewhere in that ballpark.

That makes it substantially less than the $275 million Amdocs paid for Qpass and the $250 million VeriSign paid for m-Qube.

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Ballmer: Most early 'softies "weren't very good"

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano at 9:53 AM

Most of the 30 people employed by Microsoft when Steve Ballmer joined the company 26 years ago "weren't very good," Ballmer is quoted as saying in the Times of London today.

The Times reported on the Microsoft CEO's comments to the Institute of Directors conference in London. Ballmer aims to fire 6.5 percent of his global workforce every year, and suggested managers pick the number of reductions they think they can do better with and double it.

Ballmer told the group: "The real question is never: 'Are people not good enough?' The real question is: 'Can you do better?'"

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Internet pioneers converge on spy museum

Posted by Kristi Heim at 9:47 AM

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is giving out its Pioneer Awards next week to some leading movers and shakers in information technology: Craig Newmark and Jim Buckmaster of Craigslist, Gigi Sohn of Public Knowledge and Jimmy Wales of Wikipedia.

The winners represent "vital, community-building organizations dedicated to spreading knowledge in or about our digital world," according to EFF. The awards ceremony takes place May 3 at the International Spy Museum in Washington D.C. in conjunction with the Computers, Freedom and Privacy conference, which should produce some lively debate on the topic of "Life, Liberty and Digital Rights." Michael Hintze, a senior attorney at Microsoft, is speaking on federal privacy legislation.

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April 26, 2006

The state of online news

Posted by Kristi Heim at 5:12 PM

Online journalism seems to be alive and well, even as newspapers struggle to understand and adapt to seismic shifts in the industry.

At the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE) conference going on in Seattle this week, a young, fresh-faced crowd on stage addressed a considerably older and grayer audience to talk about embracing the Web. Who was the leading the charge into the future? A journalist/programmer who develops new Web services for readers, a news producer who created a virtual community based on Hurricane Katrina coverage, and a tech editor who defied his bosses and used a do-it-yourself approach to begin podcasting.

The panel produced an interesting exchange between a newspaper editor and a Google News product manager. The editor asked if and when Google would begin sharing revenue with publishers for the content used on Google News, and Google News product manager Nathan Stoll responded that his company tries to help publishers by driving traffic to their Web sites.

I bet you can guess which one of them just reported a 60 percent rise in profit.

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InfoSpace emphasizes mobile in Q1

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 4:42 PM

The first-quarter report from InfoSpace today reveals the urgency the Bellevue-based Internet and mobile content developer has toward the rapidly growing mobile content market.

The numbers are hard to compare with the year-ago period because of a one-time gain last year from the settlement of litigation between the company and its founder, Naveen Jain. But the takeaway is that the numbers are pretty much on par with prior quarters, minus a heavy amount of investing.

InfoSpace said during a conference call today that it spent $3 million of the planned $5 million on investing in three hot areas: mobile search, content acquisition and a direct-to-consumer brand. In all, it reported a net income of $3 million or 9 cents a share on record-breaking revenues of $90.3 million during the quarter.

To update the financial community on where the company stands in those three segments, InfoSpace said that during the quarter it launched new mobile search platforms with Sprint Nextel (called Find it!) and a new search tool for T-Mobile USA customers. On the content acquisition front, it secured 20 new licenses for a total of 600 agreements to create a "deep library of music and entertainment products." It also launched new services with Cingular Wireless, including "American Idol" ringtones and a ringtone service on MySpace for undiscovered bands.

On the direct-to-consumer front, InfoSpace said it is getting closer to launching its own brand. Up to now, it has emphasized white-labeling, so that its technology was branded with the carrier's name. Now, it's aiming to sell content directly to users using an off-portal model that circumvents the carrier.

CEO Jim Voelker, who didn't want to go into too many details for competitive reasons, said the product should be ready this quarter.

And the investing won't stop there, either. InfoSpace said it plans to spend $6 million to $7 million on those three segments during the current quarter. The company said it expects a net loss of $2 million to $3 million in the second quarter, which includes $6.5 million in stock compensation expense.

InfoSpace's stock climbed higher in after-hours trading to close at $27.50.

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Naughty Amazon?

Posted by Monica Soto at 4:21 PM

Our newspapers headlines in the U.S. are too tame. Here's the headline for our story about seeking to reinstate its partnership with

Here's what The Australian wrote.

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Missed targets

Posted by Monica Soto at 2:18 PM

Virtually none of's top executives has received performance bonuses for the past two fiscal years, according to the online drugstore's proxy. (See Page 13.)

The company's CFO Bob Barton earned a $15,000 bonus in fiscal 2004.

Beyond that, Dawn Lepore, who joined the company as chief executive in Oct. 2004, received $200,000 as part of a $1 million hiring bonus. Lepore received $500,000 in 2004, a month after joining the company. She will collect the rest over the next two years.

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Nokia eyes U.S. market

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 1:17 PM

Nokia plans to open a "flagship store" in Chicago on June 21, according to an article in PC Magazine.

A second store will open in New York store around Fifth Avenue before the end of 2006. Typically U.S. consumers get phones through their carriers, but both stores will carry phones not available through those channels.

The Windy City location is particularly interesting, given Motorola, the largest handset maker in the U.S., is headquartered in Schaumburg, Illi., 30 minutes outside of Chicago. Nokia, the largest handset manufacturer in the world, is making its mission this year to beat out Motorola for the No. 1 spot here.

What better location to kick off the campaign than the competitor's back yard?

According to the article, the stores will sell Nokia's full North American product lines, including high-end phones like Nokia's N93, N91, N73, and N80. For instance, the N93 is a camcorder/camera/phone/"multimedia computer" and will cost about $682 when it goes on sale in July.

Nokia may be opening up two new stores, but it already is holding down a kiosk near Macy's at Alderwood Mall in Lynnwood. Although it doesn't sell any merchandise there, the phones are on display to touch and feel.

A quick call to the kiosk found super friendly and well-informed employees to answer your questions. They said customers that visit the kiosk can place orders from the Nokia Web site from a computer there, but can't actually buy anything directly. They also noted that they don't have any of the new N-series phones on display yet.

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thePlatform is one piece of the puzzle

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 12:32 PM

Seattle-based thePlatform, which handles content for mobile phones and lists Amp'd Mobile, Comcast and Verizon's V Cast service as customers, made three announcements yesterday at the National Association of Broadcasters show in Las Vegas.

It said:

-- Telstra, an Australian telecommunications company, is using thePlatform Media Publishing System to power its broadband video portal, BigPond.

-- It has developed new Flash-based technology to manage broadband video delivery, syndicate it and add advertising for local affiliates.

--It has signed a partnership with Maven Networks, which specializes in DVD-quality, full-screen broadband video and user interfaces.

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Entrepreneurs pitch today

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 11:35 AM

The seventh annual Early-Stage Investment Forum is taking place today at the Bell Harbor Conference Center in Seattle. The event, which allows early-stage companies to pitch their ideas to a roomful of investors, is thrown by the Northwest Entrepreneur Network.

Alex Osadzinski of Trinity Venture will deliver the keynote address, "Seattle's Hot -- A Bay Area Investor Tells All." In addition, there will be two "in the lab" presentations by Microsoft Research and Oregon State University.

Companies presenting include ADI Thermal Power, AudienceCentral, BeDynamic, Blue Lake Children's Publishing, Braincandy, Charter Bus America, Chelsey Henry, CleverSet, Coffee Equipment Company, SNAPforSeniors, Festival Media, Greenwood Technologies, Insight Schools, Lagotek, LINQware, MitoSciences, Movaya Wireless, Pluggd, Protelus, PRN ThermalCare, Red Llama, Resatech Systems, RIPL, Smart Desktop, SynerG Software, Torrent Technologies.

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Microsoft's Massive move

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano at 10:15 AM

Microsoft is taking a big step toward advertising in video games -- a growing area -- with its pending acquisition of Massive, The Wall Street Journal reported today (subscription required).

Citing "people familiar with the situation," the Journal said Microsoft will be announcing the deal, estimated to be worth $200 million to $400 million, next week. A Microsoft spokesman had no comment, per the company's usual policy regarding acquisition rumors.

Massive's Web site, which makes no mention of the Microsoft deal, flashes screen-shots from games such as "SWAT 4" of characters pointing guns next to clearly branded Coke soda fountains or crouched in front of a Sprite vending machine.

The 2-year-old company says its network "brings together publishers, developers, advertisers and gamers, who all benefit from the realism that advertising brings to video games across all platforms." The company goes on to say it can offer developers $1 to $2 profit per unit shipped.

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April 25, 2006

Mobile evangelist vaporizes

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 6:24 PM

Russell A. Beattie, a self-proclaimed mobile industry strategist and evangelist who has been diligently maintaining a blog about the industry for four years and 3,000 posts, has cut the cord.

On Saturday, Beattie posted his final comment and started asking his blog-readers worldwide to unsubscribe to his RSS feed.

He wrote: "There's lots of reasons, but generally this is a continuation of the full-reset I started back in January. At first I was actually thinking about just transitioning to a more of a weekly blog where I write less frequently and was sort of cleaning everything up with that in mind. But then I just decided that I really needed a break, and that I'd really much rather start from scratch at another URL some other time when I'm ready to write again. Lot less pressure that way to do something new later on, and a lot easier to get out of the habit of posting daily now."

Beattie continues in his day job at Yahoo!, where he is helping with the company's mobile products and services strategy.

He welcomes people to check out his archives here.

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Posted by Tricia Duryee at 6:03 PM

During a conference call yesterday on the results of the MoneyTree Report (That's right, they've changed the name from Survey to Report), Renton-based Classmates came up.

The call spent most of the time analyzing where venture capital was invested during the first quarter, but it focused for a considerable amount of time on the idea of social networking and the next wave of the Internet. See today's story here.

That's when a reporter asked: "Could MySpace lose its groove. At one time Classmates was the latest thing, and now I'm not sure if that's hot any more."

The company, founded in 1995, was purchased by United Online in 2004 and today claims millions of members in the U.S. and Canada with friends and acquaintances from school, work and the military.

What do you think? Does Classmates still have the right stuff?

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Going global with MIT

Posted by Kristi Heim at 5:28 PM

MIT's Venture Lab is taking on a topic of growing interest to small business: how to go global. On May 4, speakers from LINQware Communications, Reaxion and the Washington State Department of Community Trade & Economic Development (CTED) will talk about how to get started managing foreign relationships and operations. The event starts with networking at 5:30 p.m. and presentations at 6. Later in May, the MIT group will hold a program on "Selling in China."

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Exchange Server named

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano at 4:52 PM

Microsoft named its forthcoming version of server software to handle e-mail, contacts, calendars and voice mail at a conference in San Diego today.

Exchange Server 2007, formally known as Exchange 12, is on track for a late-2006 or early-2007 release to manufacturing, a company spokesman said.

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Skype wants ringtones, too

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 3:26 PM

Not only can your phone play "The Muppet Show" theme song, your PC can too!

Skype, the Internet-based phone service owned by eBay, said today that it has signed license agreements with thousands of musical works to be downloaded and used as ringtones. Not sure if it includes the Muppets, but the agreements include rights to three major music publishing companies: EMI Music Publishing, Sony/ATV Music Publishing and Warner/Chappell Music.

The licenses allow Skype to distribute master tones (or real snippets of MP3s) to users in the U.S. United Kingdom, Ireland, France, the Netherlands, Belgium and Poland. Don't worry, the rest of Skype's 94.6 million registered users worldwide should have access soon, too.

In September last year, Skype said it was partnering with Qpass to bring ringtones to the PC world through a program called "Skype Personalise." The program allows users to purchase content such as ringtones, sounds and pictures to modify the look and feel of their service -- similar to mobile phones.

If you remember, Qpass was the company that was purchased by Amdocs ast week for $275 million.

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Cellular at sea

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 3:13 PM

Seattle-based SeaMobile, which provides cellphone service to cruise ships and other sea-going vessels, is trying to acquire a company in the same business, according to a story on Dow Jones VentureWire.

Maritime Telecommunications Network, currently owned by Perseus, and SeaMobile have filed an application with the FCC to transfer licenses from a holding company to SeaMobile as part of the deal, which is expected to close by May 8, the newsletter reported.

SeaMobile was founded in 2005 by executives of Direct TV, McCaw Cellular Communications and the cable television industry. It is backed by Ignition Partners and Cambon Capital Partners and is designed to target the 1.2 million tourists who travel on cruise ships each year.

Dow Jones reported that Perseus purchased Maritime Telecom in April 2005 for about $110 million from Falconhead Capital and Natural Gas Partners.

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High-tech manure beats high oil prices

Posted by Kristi Heim at 10:41 AM

With oil prices rising to record levels, the search for alternative fuels has shifted into high gear. At Western Washington University, an experimental car burning methane gas made from manure is hitting the road next month at Tour de Sol, the sustainable energy car show in New York.

The Viking 32 car, engineered at WWU's Vehicle Research Institute, "is the cleanest car in the world that runs on fuel," says Eric Leonhardt, the institute's director. We profiled his work in this story.

The difference in price could be significant: Leonardt says gasoline costs five times more than the wholesale price of refined biomethane, but that price is only theoretical, since the fuel isn't sold on the market. Biomethane is made from decomposing manure at a Lynden dairy, then purified in a "scrubber" that WWU is building to filter out hydrogen sulfide and excess carbon dioxide from the raw natural gas.

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April 24, 2006

McNealy steps down

Posted by Kristi Heim at 2:18 PM

Scott McNealy at a 2003 news conference.

After 22 years as CEO, Sun Microsystems' Scott McNealy abruptly resigned today, the same day the company is reporting that its quarterly losses widened to $217 million, compared with $28 million a year ago.

McNealy, who co-founded the company, will stay on as chairman. Sun promoted COO Jonathan Schwartz to take McNealy's place. The news is conspicuously absent from Schwartz's blog, which features a huge picture of himself meeting with the president of Brazil.

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Clearwire watch

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 2:17 PM

Clearwire quietly purchased Winbeam of Pennsylvania last week to expand its presence on the East Coast.

The Kirkland company run by Craig McCaw, the wireless guru who founded what later became AT&T Wireless, is quietly amassing enough spectrum to roll out WiMax-like service in many cities across the U.S.

To date, the company has rolled out wireless broadband in as many as 30 markets in the U.S. and more than 200 across the world. With the Winbeam acquisition, Clearwire now owns 2.5 GHz frequency spectrum in portions of Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

Winbeam is now a wholly owned subsidiary of Clearwire.

"The combination of Winbeam's engineering expertise, executive team and spectrum coverage area complements Clearwire's deployment efforts," said Ben Wolff, Clearwire's co-president and chief strategy officer, in a statement released by Winbeam.

In the U.S., Clearwire owns or has rights to the second-most spectrum in this band, trailing Sprint Nextel. Clearwire is also working with Sprint Nextel to lease spectrum where it may have excess capacity. That's no surprise given McCaw played a huge role in turning around the once-troubled Nextel Communications.

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One Fool's opinion

Posted by Monica Soto at 2:00 PM

We gave our thoughts Friday on's annual letter.

Here's what the boys at had to say.

As for what the long-term future will hold, who can tell? Even Bezos doesn't claim to know the answer. But from this Fool's perspective, Bezos' reasoning does have some merit. After all, Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT) didn't become the world's largest and most successful retailer by jacking up prices on its customers. Rather, it cut costs whenever and wherever it could, and it passed the savings immediately on to consumers.

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Xbox merchandising deal

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano at 12:49 PM

4sight licensing solutions has signed a multi-year deal with Microsoft around promotions and licensing of the Xbox 360. 4sight is a subsidiary of 4Kids Entertainment, which recently announced a collaboration with Microsoft on children's gaming.

Under the 4sight agreement announced today, the company "will serve as the exclusive agent for Xbox on a global basis" with an eye toward expanding its reach and establishing the gaming system as "a cutting-edge lifestyle brand."

In a statement, Eli Friedman, director of Xbox global brand marketing, said plans include selling Xbox-branded products "to areas beyond the current distribution of the console and the games."

No word in the news release on the deal value or specific merchandising and licensing opportunities beyond the earlier 4Kids partnership on the Viva PiƱata television series and video game.

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MSN Search: The numbers don't look good

Posted by Kim Peterson at 6:51 AM

MSN is still struggling against Google and Yahoo! in the high-stakes search business, and seems to have lost some ground recently, according to research reported today by Nielsen//NetRatings.

Comparing March 2005 with March 2006, Nielsen found that searches on Google and Yahoo! grew 41 percent and 47 percent, respectively, while the overall number of searches grew by 36 percent. In other words, Google and Yahoo! outpaced industry trends. MSN grew by only 9 percent in number of searches.

Google's market share increased by 2 percent to account for 49 percent of all searches. Yahoo! 's share climbed by 1 percent to 22 percent. But MSN's share dropped from 14 percent to 11 percent.

It's a poor showing, and one that will weigh heavy on the minds of Microsoft executives next week at the MSN Strategic Account Summit. MSN is hosting the meeting to give a rundown of its technologies for marketing and advertising executives. We'll be there covering it.

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April 21, 2006 head moving to Microsoft

Posted by Kim Peterson at 4:47 PM

Steve Berkowitz is still listed as the chief executive of IAC Search and Media. Better change that soon.

Microsoft said this afternoon that it has hired Berkowitz as a senior vice president in its Platforms and Services Division, replacing David Cole, who will begin his leave of absence in May. Before moving into his position at IAC Search & Media, a unit of IAC/InterActiveCorp., he was president of, one of IAC's more well-known Web properties (it used to be known as AskJeeves). He has also been president of IDG Books, which published the "Dummies" series. Berkowitz starts on May 8.

According to Microsoft, Berkowitz will run a group that includes, MSNTV and MSN Internet Access programming, advertising sales, business development, and marketing for Live Platforms, MSN and Windows Live.

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Yahoo's Farechase moves in on Farecast

Posted by Kim Peterson at 4:15 PM

Yahoo's new FareChase tool aims to search out the lowest airfares and hotel rates online.

Yahoo! FareChase is not a travel agency, it is a search engine designed to save you both time and money by providing you with comparison shopping options from travel providers and other popular travel websites.

Sounds pretty much exactly like the mission of the not-yet-launched Farecast, the Seattle-based fare search site. The company is hosting a private beta right now and isn't saying when it will launch. I wonder if FareChase is having any effect on Farecast's release date.

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Weighing Amazon's vision

Posted by Monica Soto at 11:11 AM CEO Jeff Bezos today released his annual letter to shareholders.

The gist? The online retail giant is good at measuring things. (They love to weigh every little thing at this company.)

But Amazon has made some bets in recent years that cannot be measured or weighed in a math-based sort of way. A prime example:

It has continued to lower prices for customers over time -- it began this process in 2000 -- as it has become more efficient in the way it picks, packs and ships items, while also achieving the benefits of scale.

(Conventional wisdom would be to stop giving so much of the store away at this point.)

It has also made significant investments in technology and free-shipping promotions, all of which have served to chip away at the bottom line, at least for the short-term.

Amazon has consistently tried to point investors to the long-term. Bezos continued to defend this approach in his annual letter:

Math-based decisions command wide agreement, whereas judgment-based decisions are rightly debated and often controversial, at least until put into practice and demonstrated. Any institution unwilling to endure controversy must limit itself to decisions of the first type. In our view, doing so would not only limit controversy ... it would also significantly limit innovation and long-term value creation.

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Peaches and diamonds

Posted by Monica Soto at 10:36 AM

It's proxy season and online jeweler Blue Nile has two board members up for election, including one notable figure from our tech-boom past.

Mary Alice Taylor was chairman and chief executive of from September 1999 to October 2000, when the Kirkland-based online grocer (famous for its peach-emblazoned vans) was sold to rival Webvan. It took that company less than a year to drive the entire venture into the ground.

Taylor is now an independent business executive, who serves on the boards of Allstate, Autodesk and Sabre Holdings.

Meanwhile, Blue Nile CEO Mark Vadon's take-home pay (including bonus) was $357,725 in 2005, a 4.8 percent drop from the year before when he received a heftier bonus.

Vadon owns 1.7 million shares, or 9.7 percent of the company.

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World's largest water balloon fight

Posted by Kim Peterson at 10:32 AM


In a massive promotional stunt for the Xbox 360's Australian launch, Microsoft is planning a water balloon fight that it hopes will break the world record. The event is set to begin in about six hours in Coogee Beach.

The record for a water balloon fight is held by 2,677 people in Spain who threw 50,855 water balloons last year, and Microsoft is hoping to get hundreds more people to the beach for this one. The event ties to the water balloon commercial Microsoft filmed to promote the Xbox 360.

The crates in this picture are filled with balloons, ready for tossing.

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April 20, 2006

Vodafone moves out West

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 6:45 PM

Dow Jones reported today that Vodafone, one of the largest wireless carriers in the world, has relocated its venture capital arm to Silicon Valley.

The newswire reported that while it is not a seismic shift for Vodafone's venture investing, it signals a new desire to get a closer look at burgeoning technologies such as Web 2.0 software and digital home networking, according to Peters Suh, Vodafone Ventures' president.

The word is that Suh moved to Walnut Creek, Calif. five months ago from Vodafone's headquarters in Newbury, U.K.

Part of his mandate, Suh told Dow Jones, is to oversee a more "proactive" engagement by Vodafone Ventures with innovative start-ups and potential VC firm partners to help advance the parent company's interests. While five of Vodafone Ventures' investors remain in Europe, Suh said, two undisclosed individuals are now assisting him in scoping out the scene in California.

As mobile phones have developed to function like computers, Suh said Vodafone decided to look for start-ups with cutting-edge computing technology, rather than trying to build it in-house.

Suh cautioned against predicting a wave of new investments by Vodafone, which deals from a 100 million pound fund. Still, perhaps Suh will hop on a plane to the Northwest, where a number of new companies are emerging based on the area's expertise in software and wireless.

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Amazon protects the investment, the CEO himself

Posted by Monica Soto at 5:45 PM spent $1.1 million last year protecting Jeff Bezos, according to regulatory filings.

Since 2003, the online retailer has paid roughly $3.2 million on security for its chief executive and founder, including at business facilities and for business travel. The expense showed up for the first time on the company's annual proxy, which filed Thursday with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Meanwhile, Bezos's pay remained the same for the eighth year: $81,840.

As the company's founder, Bezos owns 101.3 million shares or 24.3 percent of the company. At Thursday's closing price, his stock was valued at $3.68 billion.

We wonder when the company will insure his trademark laugh with Lloyds of London.

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Oregon gets faster Sprint network

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 5:16 PM

Sprint Nextel said today that it has expanded its high-speed wireless network -- which makes possible fancy things such as watching TV and downloading music -- into much of Western Oregon.

The network, which is already available widely in the Seattle area, will now include Portland, Salem, Eugene, Beaverton, Hillsboro, Vancouver, Oregon City, Tigard, Corvallis, McMinnville, West Linn, Happy Valley, Milwaukie, Sherwood, Gresham, Wilsonville, Newberg, Troutdale, Clackamas and Tualatin.

Sprint uses so-called EV-DO technology to deliver average download speeds of 400 to 700 kilobits per second. That's also what Verizon Wireless uses, while Cingular Wireless uses different technology on the GSM standard.

For a complete map of coverage and planned future coverage, visit the Sprint Web site.

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Posted by Benjamin J. Romano at 2:50 PM

A quick introduction: My name is Benjamin Romano and I'm stepping into the large shoes Brier Dudley has left on the Microsoft beat. (Brier will still be contributing his wit and wisdom in a column and a blog on all things technology, with an emphasis on Microsoft.)

I've been covering biotechnology for the business section at The Seattle Times since last fall. Before that, I covered agriculture and business in Central Washington, and fishing and timber issues in Oregon. I've looked closely at several elements of the Pacific Northwest economy and I'm eager to learn and report about one of the region's and world's iconic companies.

Give me a call. I'd be happy to chat about Microsoft and technology in general. (206) 464-2149.

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Got extra cellphones?

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 12:32 PM

For Earth Day on Saturday, Cingular Wireless said it will take unwanted cellphone equipment at four Northwest locations. The event starts tomorrow and goes through Sunday.

To encourage recycling, Cingular will offer a 15 percent discount on any one accessory item when you make a donation.

The store locations are:

Seattle: Northgate Mall
Spokane: Spokane Valley Mall
Tri-Cities: Winco Plaza, Richland
Oregon City: 1900 McLoughlin Blvd.

Consumers can donate wireless phones, accessories, and batteries from any manufacturer or carrier.

Last year, Cingular collected nearly a quarter million pounds of equipment across the country.

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WSA Investment Forum -- SOLD OUT

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 12:18 PM

After extending its deadline earlier this month for applications, the WSA said today it filled the list of presenting companies for the 2006 Investment Forum.

The tech organization said 32 companies in digital media, health information-technology, Web services and wireless will make presentations.

The format this year offers the companies a choice of either pitching venture capitalists or chief information officers on their business plan. Following the presentation, a panel of VCs and experts will offer feedback.

The event will be held from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. May 25 at the Bell Harbor International Conference Center.

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Sony drops PS2 price

Posted by Kim Peterson at 11:02 AM

It's only a $20 drop, but the timing is significant. Sony will now sell the PlayStation 2 for $130, a move that had been widely predicted by analysts recently.

No question the PS2 has been a smashing success -- with 101 million units shipped worldwide to date. The price cut is designed to gin up a few more sales before everyone starts talking about Sony's next-generation console, the PlayStation 3. It may also have something to do with the fact that more Xbox 360s are available now that Microsoft has its production facilities up to speed.

Sony is going to announce more details about the PS3 next month at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles. We'll be there covering it all.

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Posted by Benjamin J. Romano at 10:51 AM

There's no shortage of questions swirling around the software as a service (SaaS) business model.

That was in evidence at last night's WSA dinner/panel discussion on the topic. Moderator Timothy Chou, who wrote "The End of Software," called SaaS "a fundamental economic shift."

But one audience member asked how fundamental it can be until major Microsoft programs are delivered over the Web.

John deVadoss, director of architecture strategy at Microsoft, emphasized that it's not a choice between SaaS or the traditional ("old world," as Chou put it) perpetual license model. He's all about the "and," noting that the company's Live platform includes components of software and services.

SaaS doesn't succeed or fail on Excel being delivered exclusively through a service model, deVadoss said.

Chou, formerly president of Oracle on Demand, pointed out that several of today's high-flying Net companies --, eBay, Google, WebEx Communications -- are operating on a SaaS model. Walk around Google's headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., he suggested, and all you'll find are programmers. "They're fundamentally a software company."

Another interesting tidbit: Nick Blozan senior veep of sales and marketing at OpSource, which acts as a contract manufacturer for delivering SaaS, asked who in the audience works for a company delivering SaaS now, or aspiring to do so. Nearly everyone put a hand up. Then he asked who is currently using SaaS, or wanted to. Far fewer raised a hand.

Steve Singh, chairman and CEO of Concur Technologies, which managed an "excruciating" transformation to the SaaS model and is now thriving, said SaaS will become a pervasive, long-term trend because it demands companies to be accountable to customers who have short-term contracts and can easily move from one vendor to another. It also has to be cheaper than any other option customers can choose, and highly focused, he said.

"It has to be like a utility switch. Nobody ever comes in and says thank God the electricity is working today," he said.

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Inside Microsoft's Mac Lab

Posted by Kim Peterson at 10:48 AM

David Weiss, a Microsoft employee who works in the company's Macintosh software lab, gives a nice tour of the place on his blog. Sounds like it was a Mac museum of sorts until recently:

Up until a few months ago we had every significant hardware revision Apple has ever released since the dawn of time. We even had a section of the Lab we affectionately called the "Mac Nursery" where we kept all the older Macs going. We even had an old SE/30 and IIci and super expensive Mac II all connected via PhoneNet running Spectre, just for fun.

But the lab was running out of space -- although Weiss doesn't explain why -- and the team had to recycle a number of computers, including the original Macintosh, the Macintosh Classic and the Macintosh IIci. Maybe they could have put them on eBay, where a Mac Classic is selling for ... $31 at last check.

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April 19, 2006

A tale of two fins

Posted by Kim Peterson at 3:01 PM

I was walking around Seattle recently, enjoying the atmosphere of a city that has finally settled into spring, and came across a restaurant called Red Fin. It's in the Hotel Max on Stewart Street. The restaurant wasn't more than a mile from Redfin, the real estate Web site and broker on First Avenue downtown, and I wondered if there was a link.

Redfin spokesman Bahn Lee said the only tie between the two were some awkward phone calls.

"There really is no connection other than that we receive a lot of misguided dinner reservation requests and their waiting staff is probably asked how to best apply their commission refund to their closing costs," he said.

Perhaps the Fins can combine services. Would you like a duplex with your sushi?

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High-tech job growth in 2004

Posted by Kim Peterson at 11:24 AM

The number of high-tech jobs in the state increased by 1,200 to 152,000 in 2004, according to a new report out by the AeA trade association. That's about 7 percent of statewide employment.

A good chunk of the growth was in software publishing, which gained more than 2,000 jobs in 2004, the most recent period for which the data is available.

If you want to buy the report, it'll cost $190 if you're not an AeA member. But here are some free details about Washington to chew on:

--152,000 high-tech workers (14th ranked cyberstate)

--High-tech companies employed 69 of every 1,000 private sector workers in 2004, ranked 10th nationwide

--High-tech workers made an average wage of $79,700 (5th ranked), or 105 percent more than Washington's average private sector wage

--A high-tech payroll of $12.1 billion in 2004, ranked 12th nationwide

--6,500 high-tech establishments in 2004, ranked 17th nationwide

--R&D expenditures of $11.5 billion in 2003, ranked 7th nationwide

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Cingular adds 1.7 million subscribers

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 10:23 AM

Cingular Wireless reported today that it added 1.7 million subscribers in the first quarter for a total of 55.8 million, securing its No. 1 position in the U.S.

Helping boost subscriber numbers was Cingular's ability to keep existing customers and add new ones. During the quarter, its churn dropped to 1.9 percent, its lowest ever. The number of customers added were also helped by attracting new pre-paid customers and its national distribution agreement with RadioShack.

The first quarter can either be slow because consumers rush to buy phones as Christmas presents in the fourth quarter, or it can be strong because of a spillover effect, with people still out shopping.

"Cingular got out of the gate fast in the first quarter," said Stan Sigman, Cingular's CEO. "We continue to move in the right direction on our major metrics -- churn, customer additions, margins, revenue growth and more."

Cingular, owned by AT&T and BellSouth, is the first of the national carriers to report first-quarter earnings. The company's nearest competitor, Verizon Wireless, has 51.3 million subscribers.

At CTIA Wireless 2006 in Las Vegas earlier this month, Denny Strigl, Verizon Wireless's CEO, told me that its not his company's goal to be the largest carrier in the U.S.

"We aren't focused in having the most number of customers," Strigl said. "We are known for having the most reliable network in the marketplace. If someday we surpass the largest carrier, so be it."

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April 18, 2006

Amazon bulks up

Posted by Monica Soto at 4:48 PM is known to compete with online retailers from eBay to, but could it be going after the Costcos of the world, too?

The longtime purveyor of books, electronics and tools has quietly expanded into pre-packaged foods, according to online reports.

Amazon now sells everything from Kellogg's Rice Krisipies cups (by the case) to an individual Ortega taco kit.

The Seattle company introduced a gourmet foods section in November 2003, but it was reserved for higher-end items such as Russian Beluga caviar and Comte AOC cheese.

The company didn't immediately return a call for comment.

Because Amazon sells products from third-party vendors alongside its own offerings, it shouldn't surprise us that two taco kits were available under its "used and new" section.

We'll just assume the boxes are unopened.

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Posted by Kim Peterson at 11:04 AM, the Santa Rosa, Calif., company that sued Microsoft for patent infringement, filed a lawsuit Monday against Apple Computer. The suit is actually a counterclaim in ongoing litigation between the two companies; Apple sued Burst in January proactively seeking a legal declaration that it wasn't infringing patents.

At issue are Burst's patents related to aspects of delivering and playing back audio and video. Burst is claiming that Apple is infringing on those patents in its iPod, iTunes and QuickTime products.

The patents, which were filed beginning in 1988, suggest a shift in the previous broadcast paradigm of delivering audio/video content at a rate commensurate with the playback speed. In contrast to the broadcast paradigm, one aspect of the patented inventions is to transmit the audio and/or video content at a rate faster than playback speed...

Microsoft paid Burst $60 million last year to settle its suit, which covered some of the same patents.

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Qpass passes $275 million test

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 10:24 AM

Seattle-based Qpass, which helps carriers sell content to cellphone subscribers, said today that it was purchased for $275 million by St. Louis-based Amdocs, a developer of customer-service software.

The purchase follows rumors circulating at CTIA Wireless 2006, the wireless association's big event in Las Vegas earlier this month.

The rumor, coming from multiple sources, was that Qpass was being purchased by Amdocs for a not-too-shabby $250 million.

The second half of the rumor was that VeriSign, which helps wireless carriers with a lot of back-end infrastructure functions, had sought Qpass as well. But according to the unverified report, VeriSign dropped out of the bidding when it purchased m-Qube, a Watertown, Mass., company that also handles transaction work for cellphone carriers, for $250 million March 20.

What a victory for Qpass, which has quite the turnaround story. The company, founded in 1997, had to ditch its public offering plans in 2000, as did many other companies. It has raised more than $100 million in financing and re-tooled its business plan more than once.

According to the press release about the sale, Amdocs will acquire all of Qpass' shares for about $275 million in cash. Through this acquisition, Amdocs can enable its customers to create additional sources of revenue through the delivery of digital goods over multiple devices and various access methods.

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April 17, 2006

Color confusion over Pebls

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 2:38 PM

What color would you call these?

Next month T-Mobile USA is planning to start selling the Motorola Pebl mobile phone in three new colors, as we reported Saturday in a wrap up of some of the hottest wireless technology coming out.

The standard black one looks like a stone. The new Pebls are almost the same except that they are different colors. But nothing is that straightforward.

According to Motorola, the new colors are Celery, Pumpkin and Teal. Today, T-Mobile said that's not exactly right. They are merely Blue, Orange and Light Green.

We'll let you be the judge.

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A few new words for Webster

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 12:58 PM

A few things to brighten your Monday from, a free daily newsletter listing everything that's hip and cool or undiscovered. Frankly, for this list of technology Lexicon, I'd agree with the "undiscovered" part. I mean, come on, does anyone actually say any of these?

Here they are:

A.I.M. v. To actively ignore messages from annoying chat buddies while blaming the server for the lost connection.

bee break n. The act of sneaking off to the bathroom in the middle of dinner to scroll through one's BlackBerry.

block-listed adj. Permanently banned from all modes of virtual communication.

case v. To use the jarring style of ALL CAPITAL LETTERS in an e-mail. Also known as virtual shouting. (Dude, quit casing me!)

e-mnesia n. The condition of having sent or received an e-mail and having no recollection of it whatsoever.

IMonogamy n. The practice of chatting into only one window at a time....

overshared server n. A person who consistently hits "Reply All" when he/she should hit "Reply," thus subjecting everyone on the e-mail list to an irrelevant personal note.

textual frustration n. A late-night text exchange that fails to result in old-fashioned lip-locking.

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aQuantive: The millions keep coming in

Posted by Kim Peterson at 11:39 AM

Seattle online marketing agency aQuantive has even more dough to roll in. In a filing today, aQuantive said it sold 1.125 million shares of its common stock when the underwriters of its recent public offering exercised an over-allotment option. That offering closed on March 15. The company now has $25.9 million more to play with, and the total net proceeds from the offering is now up to $198.3 million.

So what does a company like aQuantive do with all that cash?

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April 14, 2006

Origami on stage: "How do you work this thing?"

Posted by Kim Peterson at 2:33 PM

Three executives from Samsung, Intel and Microsoft could not operate the Origami mini-PC they were showing off to Korean journalists this week, according to The Korea Times:

Several pages later, the large projection screen suddenly completely went black. Samsung's staff again rushed to help the vice president, and found the Q1's battery has run out....

Microsoft Korea's president Yoo Jae-sung became the second victim of the day when he took over the turn after Kim wrapped up his presentation. Yoo also spent several minutes figuring out how to start the presentation file. Finally, a Samsung employee succeeded in turning it on. But then the Q1 suddenly flipped through every page of Yoo's presentation file in a just few seconds....

Lastly, Lee Hee-sung, president of Intel Korea, had his turn. Going up to the podium, the energetic Intel Korea CEO pronounced that he would "do it in my own way as my predecessors have had a difficult time.'' But Lee also failed to kick off his presentation by himself, and had to be helped by the staff who looked as if they were expecting the same kind of problems to happen again.

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RealNetworks wins patent suit

Posted by Kim Peterson at 11:14 AM

RealNetworks said it has prevailed in a patent infringement lawsuit brought against it by Ethos Technologies, a Boston-based digital delivery company. According to RealNetworks, the lawsuit related to some of its minor products, including RealDownload, which the company hasn't distributed for several years.

After a four-week trial, a jury in Boston decided this morning that RealNetworks didn't infringe on any of the 10 patent claims brought by Ethos. In fact, the jury invalidated seven of those claims.

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Steve Wozniak in Seattle

Posted by Kim Peterson at 10:42 AM

I'm getting several calls and e-mails from readers asking if Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak will be making any speeches or public appearances in Seattle today. Turns out he's on the road to Portland with his god-daughter. They're going to see "Larry the Cable Guy," a comedy show. From there he'll be flying home.

If you were at the University Village Apple store Thursday, you might have seen him. His god-daughter, University of Washington student Julie Roebuck, used to work there and wanted to introduce Woz to her co-workers. I would have loved to see that but was in the office writing this story and this Q&A on Wozniak, which ran in today's paper.

Some UW students stayed after Wozniak's speech Thursday to talk to him. They admired his watch, a large contraption on his wrist that contained vacuum tube parts. When he rotated his wrist a certain way, digital numbers would glow and show the time.

"That's tight, man," said one student.

"I know," Wozniak said.

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April 13, 2006

A Big Brother service for Mom and Dad

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 2:26 PM

In my story today on Sprint's new child-tracking service, I quoted Gerry Langeler, who is a venture capitalist for OVP Venture Partners as well as the father of a 15-year-old and 19-year-old son.

I asked him what he thought about the service, which allows you to locate your child using GPS at the touch of a button. Is it an infringement on the child's privacy?

"This is the way the world works, you stop lying or you find another way to hide the truth," he said. "It's one of those things, where if you know all the parents on the street will report what you do, than you don't do it. Raising kids is hard and it takes multiple eyes and ears to keep them safe."

He added: "The kids that would complain the loudest, they (the parents) need it the most. The ones that don't need it, won't sign up."

The service is similar to one of the features being offered by Disney Mobile. However, with Disney, in order for the parents to track their kids on their phone, they will also have to have a phone from Disney.

Langeler, who is looking at investing in GPS-mobile applications, was critical of the Disney service.

"That's a losing idea in my view. What you want is to be able to use any phone from your carrier. If they force me to buy a particular phone from a particular group, there's a tremendously tight ceiling on adoption."

What's more, he said, "Do you think my 15-year-old wants a Disney phone? Not on my life. They want something cool, not something for an 8 year old."

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Quoted: Bill Gates

Posted by Kim Peterson at 12:59 PM

Bill Gates, speaking to an audience at the University of Washington in 1988, according to the Los Angeles Times:

"Although about 3 million computers get sold every year in China, people don't pay for the software. Someday they will, though. And as long as they're going to steal it, we want them to steal ours. They'll get sort of addicted, and then we'll somehow figure out how to collect sometime in the next decade."

Microsoft is starting to figure out how to collect. See today's story for more details.

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New Microsoft bean counter

Posted by Brier Dudley at 10:29 AM

Microsoft this morning announced that it hired a new chief accounting officer, Frank Brod, formerly controller at Dow Chemical.

It wasn't in the press release, but the company lured Brod with a cash and stock deal worth more than $2 million. He's getting a $411,000 a year salary plus a $300,000 signing bonus. He's also getting 35,000 shares of stock - worth $947,450 at today's closing price - that will vest over five years.

But that's not all. Under Microsoft's executive relocation program, the company will arrange the purchase of Brod's two homes if they don't sell "as of a mutually agreed date." Brod's also getting a $450,000 relocation allowance, which should be enough to buy a fixer-upper in Renton.

Brod replaces Scott Di Valerio, who moved over to head Microsoft's sales and marketing to PC makers. In February Microsoft announced that CFO Chris Liddell would also serve as chief accounting officer, but that apparently didn't last long.

Brod's a player in the corporate accounting world, where he serves on several standards committees. At Microsoft he'll be responsible for corporate controller functions, corporate services, and financial planning and analysis.
We'll call him the Scrubbing Numbers guy, after Dow's Scrubbing Bubbles cleaning product.

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April 12, 2006

Citywide Wi-Fi in Portland

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 5:33 PM

Portland announced today who would be rolling out its Wi-Fi network across the city, and it wasn't EarthLink or Google, which have received a lot of attention for proposals in other markets.

The winner was MetroFi, which will build and operate a citywide Wi-Fi network that will provide free wireless Internet access to Portland residents. The network will also be used for public services such as smart parking meters, through which the city expects to save millions of dollars in productivity. The system will be built at no cost to the city.

The city of Portland spans 134 square miles and has a population of approximately 540,000. Access for up to 1 megabit per second will be available at no cost. The service will be supported by advertising from local and national advertisers in the form of banner and text advertisements in the browser frame. Customers who want an access without ads can pay about $20 a month.

If you remember, in a May report the city of Seattle dismissed the idea of Wi-Fi being efficient for providing Internet access to residents. Instead, the city wanted to get a service provider to lay fiber to every home and business.

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Bill, Melinda and Oprah

Posted by Brier Dudley at 2:36 PM

Bill and Melinda Gates appeared on "Oprah" Tuesday to call for improvements to the U.S. education system, one of the major undertakings of their charitable foundation.

The show featured a short interview filmed last month at San Diego High School, then cut to a segment that contrasted an inner-city Chicago high school near Oprah's studio with a luxurious school in the suburbs.

The two-part special continues today. It airs at 4 p.m. on KING 5 and 9 p.m. on KONG 6.

Whether the show has an effect on the education crisis remains to be seen. But we're now expecting to see Oprah visit her new friends in Medina sometime, perhaps at the CEO Summit in May.

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Findory: Recent growth stats

Posted by Kim Peterson at 1:25 PM

Greg Linden, founder of personalized news and blog search company Findory, gives a state-of-the-company summary today on his blog. Growth is continuing, although recently slowed, Linden said, partly because of the loss of a key developer and partly because Findory stopped advertising altogether.

I last wrote about Findory in May.

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Google and voice-based search

Posted by Kim Peterson at 12:36 PM

Ars Technica brings the first word that Google received a patent yesterday for a system that provides search results from a voice-based search query.

To satisfy the average user, a voice interface to a search engine must recognize spoken queries, and must return highly relevant search results. Several problems exist in designing satisfactory voice interfaces. Current speech recognition technology has high word error rates for large vocabulary sizes. There is very little repetition in queries, providing little information that could be used to guide the speech recognizer.

While the patent isn't specifically focused on mobile search technologies, I wonder how this news will go over locally with the companies working in that area. Those include Medio Systems, InfoSpace, Microsoft (through its recently announced acquisition of Paris-based MotionBridge) and particularly VoiceBox Technologies. Action Engine is also developing a mobile application platform and looking at data entry on mobile devices.

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Venture round for Bothell drug sample company

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano at 11:45 AM

MedManage Systems, a Bothell company that helps drug companies get sample products in front of prescribing physicians, has raised $10.75 million in venture funding, it said today.

The capital will help MedManage expand the market for its online drug sampling tools, which help drug companies target and recruit physicians and allow them to easily order samples.

The funding round was led by QuestMark Partners, with participation from existing investors Versant Ventures, Lilly Ventures and Prism Venture Partners.

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Cell biologist bats .341 with 25 home runs

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano at 10:47 AM

OK, not really. But a trade group in Illinois has issued trading cards showcasing the state's top scientists.

"Collect 'em now and get an autograph," Jack Lavin, director of the Illinois Department of Commerce, said at the biotech industry's biggest convention, according to this Chicago Tribune article (registration required). "They'll be worth thousands once they win a Nobel!"

It's an innovative, if gimmicky, effort in the ongoing competition among the states to woo the life sciences industry. Traditional enticements include tax incentives and cash for research, like the $350 million Life Sciences Discovery Fund here in Washington, or giveaways of land and other resources in other states.

A new report issued at the convention, ending in Chicago today, details the incentives offered by all the states, though the Illinois trading cards aren't included.

The Tribune quoted scientist Peter Sutovsky, who's depicted on a card, asking, "How do you calculate a scientist's batting average?"

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April 11, 2006

Microsoft patch time

Posted by Mark Watanabe at 4:18 PM

It's the second Tuesday of the month, meaning it's time for the monthly security bulletin from Microosoft. This month's collection consists of five updates involving several products, including Windows and Internet Explorer.

CERT, the federally funded security research center operated by Carnegie Mellon University, released details about the Windows and IE vulnerabiilities.

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Cashing in coins for virtual music

Posted by Kim Peterson at 2:58 PM

Bellevue-based Coinstar is now allowing you to cash in your loose change for songs and videos from Apple's iTunes Music Store.

Coinstar already has prime real estate in stores, and the hardware and brand awareness seem to be in place as well. At what point does the company stop pushing the trade-in-your-coins model and focus on becoming a full-service e-tail kiosk?

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Mind Camp opens for registration

Posted by Kim Peterson at 1:54 PM

Seattle Mind Camp is now open for registration. The event runs 25 hours straight from 11 a.m. April 29 to noon April 30 at the new Youngstown Cultural Arts Center in West Seattle. It costs $25 to attend.

This is the second Mind Camp, an informal event for techies to hang out, have conversations and see what develops. I profiled Mind Camp organizer Andru Edwards in October.

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NeoRx postpones vote on $65 million financing

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano at 1:45 PM

NeoRx said today it had adjourned for two weeks the special meeting of shareholders meant to vote on a proposed $65 million infusion for the cash-strapped biotech company. As of this morning, the company said, shares represented in person or by proxy did not reach the quorum necessary for the meeting to do business.

Approximtely 16 million shares were voted, representing about 48 percent of the company's outstanding common stock. Approximately 17 million shares, or 50.1 percent of the common stock, is required to establish a quorum.

Of the shares voted, more than 90 percent were cast in favor of both proposals, which must be approved to complete the financing, the company said.

The proposed infusion would be led by major health-care investor MPM Capital, which will own 30 percent of the company's common stock when the deal is complete. Life-sciences merchant bank Bay City Capital, whose co-founder Fred Craves is a longtime NeoRx board member, also is participating, along with Deerfield Management, Abingworth and T. Rowe Price.

The new shares issued would nearly triple NeoRx's current float of 34.3 million shares, giving the latest investors majority control of the company.

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Microsoftie heading to MySpace

Posted by Kim Peterson at 10:05 AM

News Corp. is naming a Microsoftie as its security czar to oversee child safety measures on, according to Reuters. Hemanshu "Hemu" Nigam, who had been in charge of consumer security outreach and child-safe computing at Microsoft, will start at MySpace on May 1.

The site, popular with teens and pre-teens, has received criticism recently as fears rise that sexual predators could be using it to target children online.

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April 10, 2006

Progress against piracy?

Posted by Kristi Heim at 5:39 PM

Chinese authorities announced a step toward reducing software piracy today, requiring manufacturers to ship new computers pre-loaded with legitimate operating system software. Many Chinese computers are sold without any software installed because consumers want them that way. It's easy to buy and install pirated versions of Microsoft Windows and other programs, sold on the street for less than $1 a copy.

But a government order issued last month requires all domestic and imported computers to be sold with legitimate operating system software pre-installed, according to China's National Copyright Administration. The regulation does not specify which software is to be used, and Microsoft has competition from Kingsoft, Linux and others. It does require software providers to give computer makers favorable prices and services, a hint that regulators don't want the price tag jumping $100 or more just for the software.

Microsoft has long pressed PC makers in China to agree to install legitimate software, and it made some progress recently with companies such as Lenovo. "We applaud the Chinese government for taking this significant step toward ensuring the use of genuine software in China, and for promoting a healthy intellectual property environment, which we believe is vital for China to realize its full potential as an innovation leader," the company said in a statement. But like any law in China, its effectiveness depends on enforcement.

The timing of the announcement was planned to coincide with a visit by Chinese Vice Premier Wu Yi to the U.S. as she tries to defuse trade tensions and smooth the way for Chinese President Hu Jintao's official visit next week.

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Cray again facing Nasdaq delisting

Posted by Kristi Heim at 3:04 PM

Supercomputer maker Cray today said it received a notice from the Nasdaq Stock Market last week finding the company was not in compliance with marketplace rules and now faces potential delisting. The problem stems from Cray's failure to file its 2005 annual report on time.

Why does this sound so familiar? Last May, Cray received a similar notice from Nasdaq for failing to include an auditor's opinion on financial reporting in its 2004 annual report.

Cray said last month it would delay filing of its 2005 annual report pending a review of a $3.3 million non-cash item that could force it to adjust its 2004 financial statements. Cray did not give a timeline for when it expects to file.

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More on tech job outlook

Posted by Kristi Heim at 2:27 PM

Seattle employment Web site Jobster, which counts Starbucks, Microsoft, Expedia, Google and eBay among its clients, is about to announce news about steady growth this week, mirroring a national uptick in the tech job market.

"We are seeing the hottest technology employment market in the Seattle market in years," Jobster CEO Jason Goldberg said in an email. "Competition for technology workers has increased dramatically over the past six months, with many candidates reporting multiple offers. Large employers such as Microsoft and Google (which is growing its Seattle presence) are now competing aggressively with small startups for tech talent."

The number of engineering and software development positions being posted online by Seattle area companies has grown more than 20 percent since August, he added. Better news, indeed, than simply fewer job cuts.

Update: Jobster says 115 new companies are using its service, and it added basic job listings from another 80,000 employers.

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Patent lifts Cell Therapeutics stock

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano at 1:14 PM

Shares of Seattle biotechnology company Cell Therapeutics closed up 10.6 percent Monday after it announced a new patent.

The company patented CT-45099, which it described as the first agent from a new class of anti-cancer compounds to reach animal testing. The compound is a small-molecule antitubulin and differs from other cancer drugs in its method of action against tumor cells, the company said.

Patented through its European subsidiary, the drug may be effective against cancers that develop resistance to other chemotherapies.

Cell Therapeutics was up 19 cents to close at $1.98 this afternoon on heavier-than-normal volume.

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UW MBAs are best would-be VCs

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano at 10:37 AM

For the second time in two years, MBA students at University of Washington are the best budding venture capitalists in the country.

A team from the UW business school won the Venture Capital Investment Competition over the weekend in Chapel Hill, N.C. It beat teams from NYU, Michigan, Colorado, Duke, Harvard, MIT, USC, and Cambridge, U.K. The UW won the event in 2004, as well.

The teams play the role of venture capital firms. They read five business plans from actual entrepreneurs seeking funding. They listen to pitches, meet one-on-one, perform due diligence and choose one or more deals. Then the teams produce term sheets and presentations for the judges, who grill them on their decisions.

"The Washington team was outstanding in every stage of the competition, with a poise that didn't even break when the lights unexpectedly went out during its due diligence with an online dating platform provider," wrote Daniel Primack, a judge and writer of PE (Private Equity) Wire Week, a daily venture capital newsletter.

The UW took home a $10,000 prize and "the post-competition bar tab," Primack wrote. "If you've ever wanted to see the spectacle of broke MBA candidates buying shots for loaded (multiple connotations) VCs, this is probably your only opportunity."

The winners from UW are: Andy Boyer, Chris Howard, Rebecca Lovell, Brad Parker and Ian Scrymgeour. Their faculty coach is Emer Dooley, lecturer in entrepreneurship.

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Tech job outlook improves

Posted by Kristi Heim at 10:28 AM

The outlook for tech jobs is getting better -- that is, if you count fewer job cuts as an improvement.

Outsourcing consultants Challenger, Gray & Christmas report this morning that tech job cuts declined 34 percent from the same quarter last year.

It's the fourth consecutive quarter in which tech job cuts fell below the level they were the year before. The figure for total job cuts in the first three months of 2006 was 39,379, compared to 59,537 last year.

Most of the cuts were attributed to consolidation in the telecom industry. The job outlook is brightest in areas like storage systems administration and information security.

The change was heralded as "territory not seen since the peak of the era" and IT workers were proclaimed to be "objects of bidding wars among desperate, labor-deprived employers."

Hmm. Since when did losing 40,000 jobs instead of 60,000 jobs suddenly become cause for such elation? Maybe when they report 60,000 new jobs gained I'll feel more optimistic.

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April 7, 2006

Dendreon reduces size of Provenge plant

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano at 2:31 PM

Dendreon said in a regulatory filing today that it was reducing the scope of its Provenge manufacturing plant under construction in Hanover, N.J.

The Seattle biotech company amended its construction agreement to "reduce the size of the New Jersey manufacturing facility from a 48 workstation facility to a 12 workstation facility with appropriate laboratory and support areas."

Company spokeswoman Monique Greer said the move was part of the company's efforts to shift resources to prepare for its regulatory application and commercialization of Provenge. The company expects to file for regulatory approval to market the prostate-cancer treatment later this year.

She said 12 clean rooms, where the treatment will be manufactured, "is absolutely sufficient to meet the demand that we expect on launch of Provenge."

Biotech Stock Research, a Seattle-based investor publication, said in an investor note today the decision raises concerns:

The worry is this could be another Enbrel, where developer Immunex had a big hit on their hands and ended up not realizing the true promise of it due to lack of manufacturing capacity. They eventually sold themselves to Amgen (AMGN) at far below what their ultimate value would have been if they calculated manufacturing capacity at something other than the bare minimum necessary for launch.

In those terms, we see this reduction in capacity as further proof the company is positioning itself to be sold relatively quickly after Provenge is approved.

Greer said BSR was "reading a lot more into it than there really is. It doesn't mean any change in the company's commitment to Provenge or the timelines."

Dendreon shares closed down 3 cents to $4.35 today.

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CTIA: Mickey Mouse mobile

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 1:15 PM

On the first day of CTIA, Disney Mobile launched its new cell-phone service. The service is called an MVNO because it buys cell phone minutes wholesale from Sprint and then resells them rebranded as Disney to consumers.

Disney Mobile said its service is special because of all the family features, including a tracking feature to find a member of the family and alerts for when someone has gone over their designated number of minutes.

A number of MVNOs have launched recently including Amp'd Mobile and ESPN Mobile.

Jorge Fuenzalida, a general manager and analyst for inCode, said these virtual carriers are serving a purpose.

"Disney's MVNO is very relevant. We've gone through a series of consolidation and now we have three vying for the No. 1 spot," he said.

He called coverage sold on the fact that its good or that you get a lot of minutes is passe. "It needs to look and feel different," he said.

Still, he said they aren't all likely to survive. "The long-term prognosis is up in the air."

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CTIA: Real Networks on Cingular

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 12:59 PM

Seattle's Real Networks launched a video service with Cingular Wireless, the largest carrier in the country, earlier this year. Yesterday I got a small peek of what it looks like on the phone of John Giamatteo, Real's executive vice president of worldwide business products and services and international operations.

During a two-minute CNN clip, I clearly saw President Bush walking across the lawn in a news segment. Although I wouldn't compare it to HDTV quality or even cable, it looked remarkably good.

Although Cingular has launched the video product; everyone is waiting to hear about when it might offer full-track music downloads. During its press conference yesterday, an analyst asked when it might be ready because the service cures the impulses of consumers who have to have it now.

Jim Ryan, Cingular's vice president of consumer data services, said before a music service is launched, the company is looking for services like the MySpace ringtone program launched yestereday that will build habits on an evolutionary basis.

Giamatteo said Real is a big believer in music on the mobile phone. "The iPod will be in trouble," he said.

As for any potential deal with Cingular brewing, he said: "Our platform supports a wide variety of digital content. Music is the next logical step."

He cautioned: "At this point, nothing has been launched."

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Cialis improves sex life for men with spinal injury

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano at 11:44 AM

Men with spinal-cord injuries reported improvements in their sex lives after taking Cialis, Icos' erectile dysfunction drug. The Bothell company reported data from a study of 186 patients, sending its stock up $1.82, or 8.3 percent, to close at $23.76 today. The men treated with the drug reported successful sexual intercourse in 47.6 percent of attempts, compared to 10.8 percent at baseline.

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CTIA: Countdown

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 10:25 AM

CTIA is wrapping up in Las Vegas after three days of intense meetings, socializing and contemplating what the latest and greatest technologies will be in the near future.

Some of the most exciting things I've seen here were :
-- How advertising is starting to creep on to the mobile phone to subsidize content like news and entertainment.
-- How mobile is becoming a new avenue for people to self-publish their creative work. The partnership among InfoSpace, Cingular and MySpace will allow bands to roll out ringtones to their fan base.

I wrote about both earlier this week. Check the advertising story here and the ringtone story here.

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CTIA: 3G and beyond

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 10:06 AM

In today's keynote, which featured three carrier executives from Orange, Cingular Wireless and Sprint Nextel, a debate ensued about what will come after third generation broadband networks are rolled out.

Sanjiv Ahuja, Orange's CEO, said he didn't want the industry to get ahead of itself. He said the carriers need to focus on 3G first and deliver a solid product to the customers before they look at installing networks with even higher speeds.

Cingular CEO Stan Sigman agreed. He said Cingular is supporting a ton of legacy networks and they are focused on people switching over to the newest networks to get the highest rate of efficiency of its airwaves it can get.

Sprint Nextel's COO Len Lauer disagreed. He said Sprint Nextel is committed to rolling out 4G and will make a decision as to what that technology will be by summer and then start rolling it out in 2008. One of the candidates for that technology is WiMax, a technology that is being used by Craig McCaw's new venture Clearwire in Kirkland. He said it will become important to roll out new networks as high-end applications like TV are adopted by customers.

"We believe the industry has been successful because of innovation. We are planning on rolling out 4G," he said.
Lauer also challenged Europe to come up with a solution for 4G so that there can be interoperability between the two continents.

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April 6, 2006

Getty Images swallows partner

Posted by Kristi Heim at 1:51 PM

Getty Images, the world's largest stock photo company, just got larger.
Today Seattle-based Getty announced it has acquired Pixel Images of Ireland for $135 million in cash. Pixel owns Stockdisc and Stockbyte, Getty's largest image partner. Owning the content it already distributes will increase its margins and add flexibility, Getty says.
The purchase comes just two months after Getty bought iStockphoto for $50 million in a bid to enter the low-cost "micropayment" business. Both Stockbyte and iStockphoto offer royalty-free images, Stockbyte's for as little as $45 and iStockphoto's for as low as $1.

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Xbox in Japan: Nose to the grindstone

Posted by Kim Peterson at 1:50 PM

Microsoft is going to work even harder to win over Japanese gamers to its Xbox 360 console. The company said in Tokyo today it will triple the number of games in Japan by the end of the year.

"Our message is this: We're prepared to do everything that's needed to make Xbox 360 a success around the world, including Japan," said Takashi Sensui, who became the head of Japan's Xbox operations this month, according to Bloomberg.

The Xbox 360 debuted in December in Japan to tepid response, and gamers there seem to have turned their attention to products from Nintendo instead. But by the time Sony debuts its PlayStation 3 in November, Microsoft will have had 11 months to court fans there.

Microsoft is also looking to improve the video downloads on its Xbox Live service in Japan. It has 25 Xbox 360 games out in Japan now, according to Bloomberg, and is planning to have 80 available by the end of the year.

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CTIA: Live from the stage

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 11:07 AM

During MTV Network's session, LL Cool J made a surprise appearence to tout the cable television's new service Life and Rhymes, which allows performers to connect with fans.

LL Cool J said he was looking forward to the service so he could share storeis about his passion for the hip-hop industry. He shared with the audience that when he was first starting out, he'd write his rhymes on a piece of paper, which he would then carefully iron before heading to the studio to record the song.

"I actually ironed the pages of the songs, so I went to the studio I could see clearly and do a really good job. That's how important it was for me to do well," he said.

He said: "It's a very exciting time to be in hip-hop and in the music industry in general. The industry has allowed me to do things that I never would have thought I could do, and now technology is helping me do things I never imagined, like get closer ties with the fans and connet with them on new songs. The mobile phone helps me achieve all of that,"

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CTIA: Go go going

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 10:56 AM

Redmond-based GoGoMo said it has partnered with GetVery to launch a site for hip-hop fans to purchase digital content for mobile phones, iPods and more.

GoGoMo, which is founded by former employees of InfoSpace, is developing a digital goods store where users can not only purchase new content but also store their collection.

The GetVery site will include content such as ringtones, videos, games and images and some offerings tailored to the urban culture and hip-hop fans.

I wrote about GoGoMo recently; check that story out here.

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CTIA: Laffy Taffy

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 10:47 AM

During BET's keynote performance this morning, the rap group D4L came out on stage to tell the wireless industry just what they were looking for in mobile. D4L made history last year when it sold more ringtones than any other band based on its hit "Laffy Taffy."

Debra Lee, BET's chairman and CEO, asked the three-member group, what makes's a good ringtone.

The answer, which drew laughs from the crowd: "A good phone."

When asked what would help sell more ringtones, they said making it easier to buy them -- afterall "a lot of people I know don't have a college education."

The ringtones they currently had on their phones included D4L hits but also tunes from Busta Rhymes and Michael Jackson's "Thriller."

Before exiting the stage, the entrepreneurial trio, took the opportunity to offer their talents to the crowd.

"Like I said, my schedule is open," said one member.

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CTIA: Wireless party

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 10:40 AM

Last night was the big night of the show for parties. There were more than 10 being thrown by the likes of InfoSpace, Nokia, LG, Motorola and Mforma.

No expenses were spared. The InfoSpace party, at Hard Rock Cafe, had two bands perform in front of a crowd holding drinks with blinking red ice cubes floating in their glasses. Sushi chefs served up salmon and spicy tuna. At the neighboring Nokia party, also at the Hard Rock, the Go-Go's performed live in front of a packed crowd standing around a tropical themed pool party. Party favors included costume accessories, such as cowboy hats and blinking necklaces.

I didn't make it, but I guess LG had appearances from The Counting Crows.

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Microsoft buys game developer Lionhead

Posted by Kim Peterson at 9:57 AM

Microsoft's Game Studios division said this morning it has purchased the U.K.-based Lionhead Studios, known most recently as the developer of the "Fable" video game for Xbox and Windows.

With the purchase, Microsoft gets Peter Molyneux, considered to be one of the most creative and visionary developers in the industry and one with a long history in video games. Molyneux will be a managing director at Microsoft and will run Lionhead on a day-to-day basis. He'll report to Phil Spencer, general manager of publishing for Microsoft Game Studios.

Lionhead will remain based in Guildford, Surrey, in the U.K. It has 150 employees, and Microsoft said that there may be some overlap in responsibilities now among some employees. That could mean some layoffs are in the works. But Microsoft said it doesn't "expect additional layoffs in the games and production teams at this time."

The acquisition closed today, and the financial terms of the deal were not announced. Lionhead will begin creating content exclusively for the Xbox 360 and Windows platforms.

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April 5, 2006

CTIA: Cingular inside laptops

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 2:15 PM

LAS VEGAS -- Cingular Wireless said today that it is integrating its high-speed cellular connection into HP business laptops.

WIth the announcement, HP is expected to be the first company to provide 3G capability worldwide when it incorporates Cingular's so-called UMTS/HSDPA-based technology into the laptops later this year.

Customers will be able to connect to the Internet with the service in both the U.S. and in more than 100 countries worldwide in which there are UMTS or GPRS/EDGE networks available. BroadbandConnect service is expected to be available in most major U.S. markets by the end of this year.

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CTIA: Keynotes

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 11:05 AM

The keynotes at today's CTIA included apperances by Steve Wadsworth, the president of Disney Internet Group; NTT DoCoMo's President and CEO Masao Nakamura; Nokia's Chairman and CEO Jorma Ollila and Time Warner Cable's Chairman and CEO Glenn Britt.

Britt addressed why he was at a wireless show.

He said:

Some of the early ads promoting this year's conference, and this particular keynote session, posed the question: "Why is this cable titan focused on wireless?"

Well, first I need to concede that I've never considered myself a cable titan. Of course, I'm proud to be a "Cable Guy." I feel comfortable making that claim, because I've spent much of my career in the cable business primarily as an operator, but also as a programmer.

There is a simple answer to the question posed in those trade ads: The Consumer.

The consumer is the reason cable is focused on wireless.

Britt went on to explain that content is not king; the consumer is king, and is gaining importance with the interest in consumer-generated content, like blogs, photos and other ways to share information.

He also addressed the partnership between Time Warner and Sprint Nextel. He said that besides the consumer being able to get wireless bundled with their cable bill, there were other attractions to the partnership.

Those include: The ability to program your DVR from your mobile device as well as access your pre-recorded content; the capability for mobile access to clips from your favorite shows and live news and sports reports; and compatible navigation between TV, PC and mobile device.

"The future of wireless is very bright," he concluded. "The future of cable is also very bright. Our futures together are limitless."

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CTIA: Mforma rebranded

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 10:55 AM

San Francisco-based Mforma, whose Chairman Dan Kranzler is based in Bellevue, said today that the company is being renamed Hands-On Mobile.

The company was based in Bellevue until recently, and develops mobile games and other publishes other content for the mobile phone.

"The decision to change our name reflects the fact that we have become the definitive mobile-entertainment media company worldwide," said Hands-On Mobile's President and Chief Executive Officer Jonathan Sacks. "Consumers want entertaining, enriching and empowering content at their fingertips, a truly 'hands-on' entertainment experience."

With the renaming, the company also said that it is focusing on three product lines: Hands-On Games, Hands-On Lifestyle and Hands-On Personalization.

"In the coming weeks, we expect to roll out a diverse and compelling array of products that will meet the needs of our customers, enabling them to customize their mobile-entertainment content to best reflect their own hobbies, beliefs and passions," Sacks said.

The company also announced today a partnership with Lego Classics to create unique Lego-branded games, and Daily Devotions, a product that offers daily inspirations and prayers delivered by Pat Boone, the voice of the Christian Radio Network.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, it also announced a partnership with rock star Tommy Lee.

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CTIA: Microsoft on digital rights

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 10:53 AM

Microsoft announced today at CTIA that it will be increasing its investments in digital rights management technology or DRM, which ensures digital content is being used properly. No word on how big the investment will be.

Currently, Windows Media technology is powering Verizon Wireless's mobile services, including V CAST Music and V CAST Video. Microsoft's Windows Media technology has also been adopted by handset manufacturers, like Motorola, Nokia and BenQ, and mobile broadcast service providers Modeo, Virgin Mobile and MobiTV.

"We're looking at protecting new forms of digital media on handsets, like games or ringtones. There are also device-to-device scenarios we're looking into, so we can help enhance both the security and portability of content," according to Adam Anderson, Product Manager for Windows Digital Media.

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Reaction to the Apple news

Posted by Kim Peterson at 10:49 AM

A few bits of reaction to the Apple news today:

Jupiter analyst Michael Gartenberg: "Microsoft should clearly have no issue selling another Windows license to customers. Bottom line, many users who need to use Windows for some app that just isn't available on Mac OS can now safely purchase a Macintosh."

ZDNet's Ed Bott: "When you add it all up, this is a feature that diehard enthusiasts might experiment with, but it won't be particularly useful in the real world."

The Unofficial Apple Weblog: "It's great that Apple's allowing all those Mac users to run Windows for an app or two that doesn't work in Mac OS X yet, but I really don't think Boot Camp signifies Apple's first step towards 'fighting the PC revolution' using anyone's hardware but their own."

The Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg: "I've been testing Windows on a new iMac for several days, and, except for a couple of trifling annoyances, it runs perfectly, just like a stand-alone Windows PC."

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CTIA: Waste not, want not

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 10:47 AM

The Consumer Electronics Show gets porn, CTIA gets trash.

As attendees poured into the convention hall this morning with the kick-off of CTIA Wireless, we learned we were sharing the facility with Waste Expo 2006. I guess that's how it is -- CES gets to share the convention center with adult entertainment, and CTIA is sharing it with waste.

I heard last year's highlight of Waste Expo was a keynote by Dr. Ruth. I wonder if they can beat Mickey Mouse, which made an appearance on stage during the keynote today by Steve Wadsworth, president of the Walt Disney Internet Group.

Wadsworth unveiled the new wireless service by Disney, called Disney Mobile. To help launch the new product, which includes a lot of parental controls to help parents monitor their children, Mickey came out on stage and helped bring out a cell phone nearly twice his size.

In real life, Wadsworth promised, the cell phones are smaller.

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Good for both Steves - Jobs and Ballmer?

Posted by Brier Dudley at 10:03 AM

Is it good for Microsoft or bad for Microsoft that Apple's next operating system will make it easier to load Windows onto a Mac?

Apple's stock leaped this morning on the news that "Leopard," the company's next OS, will have a feature called "Boot Camp" that will help users load Windows XP onto their systems. This sort of capability has been expected since Apple began selling Intel-powered Macs this year, but Apple surprised the tech community by releasing a test version of Boot Camp today.

At first blush it sounds like a huge threat to the dominant Windows-Intel PC platform. But it could mean that Microsoft will sell more copies of Windows, and its shares rose on the news as well.

The big question is whether anyone will want to run XP on a Mac by the time a Boot Camp is finalized. By then, XP will be eclipsed by Windows Vista and Leopard.

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April 4, 2006

Bill Gates' desk doesn't look like yours

Posted by Kim Peterson at 3:54 PM

Bill Gates has an awfully clean desk. Check out the photo in his writeup on "How I Work" for Fortune.

Other nuggets from the essay:

Gates only reads about 100 e-mails a day, and automatically filters the e-mail so that it only comes from people he knows, people he has corresponded with in the past and people from his company or partner companies.

He doesn't like to-do lists.

He usually ignores the little notification box on Outlook that pops up when a new e-mail comes in.

He gets 90 percent of his news online, and takes notes in digital form on his Tablet PC. His one low-tech piece of office equipment is a whiteboard.

He tends to write long, thoughtful pieces of e-mail over the weekend: "When people come in Monday morning, they'll see that I've been quite busy -- they'll have a lot of e-mail."

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DocuSign gets $10 million check

Posted by Kristi Heim at 2:24 PM

Moving further toward a paperless world, Seattle's DocuSign said today it raised $10 million from Sigma Partners to complete its second round of funding.

DocuSign provides an electronic signature service that works through a Web browser. It received initial funding from angel investors, followed by $4.6 million from Ignition Partners and Frazier Technology Ventures in 2004.

Founded in 2003, the company now has about 35 employees and 1,000 customers, most of them small businesses.

In case you were wondering whether the documents for Sigma's investment were signed electronically, they were, says DocuSign's Jerry Johnson.

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Speakeasy founder launches Ookla

Posted by Kim Peterson at 2:00 PM

Mike Apgar, the Seattle entrepreneur who founded Speakeasy as an Internet cafe in 1994, said today he'll be leaving the company to focus on his new venture, called Ookla. See this story for more information.

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A passion-free day

Posted by Kim Peterson at 1:48 PM

At, news writer Bob Baker is challenging other writers to avoid using the words "passion" and "passionate" on April 10, which he has proclaimed to be National Originality Day. Baker searched several thousand publications to see how often those words came up on March 22, 1996, and March 22, 2006. Turns out there was a 198 percent increase in the usage of "passion" and a 144 percent increase in the usage of "passionate."

Baker guesses the reason why is because "something snapped in our no-holds-barred culture and a word normally associated with sex began percolating into other areas."

Perhaps Baker should search for answers at Microsoft, which seems to favor the word "passion" almost as much as "Windows" and "Office." I did a search on for "passion" and found 7,685 results. A search for "passionate" returned 3,057 results.

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CTIA: not off the ground yet

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 12:07 PM

Yes, I was supposed to take off, but we are sitting at the gate waiting for the plane to be checked out for maintenance issues. If you can't already guess who I'm flying with, the airline is named after a non-contiguous state.

As for CTIA, more continues to break the day before the show even happens. It seems like wireless is the hot industry to be in, because everyone is trying to reposition themself as a mobile company.

Seattle-based Getty Images announced today its mobile strategy: bringing its photo collection of news, sports and entertainment to mobile customers through partnerships with mobile operators. With mobile communication on the rise, said Getty, it is creating new business opportunities by offering products that can serve on multiple platforms.

"The world is turning to mobile devices for more colorful and interactive experiences every day, and imagery is integral to these new uses," said Jonathan Klein, Getty Images' CEO. "Whether we're collaborating with a partner to bring image-driven applications to market or developing our own applications for mobile operators, Getty Images is committed to offering our customers the best imagery, services and applications on every available platform."

Getty also is partnering with content creators. Both and worked with Getty Images to bring their mobile applications to market.

Flight update: We are unboarding (is that a word?) and waiting at least an hour for the plane to be fixed.

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Microsoft: 2,000 attacks per hour

Posted by Kim Peterson at 11:41 AM

There's an interesting interview on with Mike Danseglio, a program manager in Microsoft's security group, saying that PCs can get so bugged up with malware that sometimes you just have to wipe them clean and start over.

"When you are dealing with rootkits and some advanced spyware programs, the only solution is to rebuild from scratch," he said in the interview. "In some cases, there really is no way to recover without nuking the systems from orbit."

Some nefarious programs are so sophisticated now that they self-heal, he said, and actually will reinstall when you're trying to get rid of them.

"At Microsoft, we are fielding 2,000 attacks per hour," he said. "We are a constant target."

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Pixsy is reborn today

Posted by Kim Peterson at 11:18 AM

Seattle-based Pixsy is relaunching today with new technology and new methods of offering image-based Web searches. The company, which has offices in Madison Park, now crawls hundreds of RSS feeds for images and video, and makes them available for searching.

I talked yesterday to founder Chase Norlin, who said originally the company competed directly with Google, which also lets users search for images online. But now, it has decided to only crawl RSS feeds instead of crawling the Web.


The company brings in revenue through online advertising and by partnering with some affiliates. For example, if a user clicks from the site to one of the poster stores offering image feeds and buys a poster, Pixsy gets a cut of the sale.

Norlin also said Pixsy is in stealth development of an image-based pay-per-click advertising model. It's kind of like a Google AdSense with images, but with a "completely different twist," he said. Intriguing....

Update: I profiled Pixsy last November.

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CTIA: The day before

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 10:54 AM

The difficult part about going to a big convention like CTIA for a journalist is knowing when to fly out. You don't want to get there too early and at the same time you don't want to miss any news.

As I sit at SeaTac waiting to fly out to Las Vegas, there's two things moving already.

1. Bellevue-based InfoSpace announced it has relaunched T-Mobile USA's T-Zones experience to include a better search function. The new search bar allows the 12 million T-Mobile subscribers that have it, access to: ringtones, games, wallpapers, approved applications surrounding news, stocks, weather, sports, local search for places and events nearby, and information from the Internet that is mobile-friendly.

The deal is fairly significant for InfoSpace, which has been trying to reposition itself as a mobile company.

2. Bloomberg is reporting that Microsoft is planning to unveil that it has won its biggest-ever contract for mobile-phone software as early as today. The order from the U.S. Census Bureau covers 500,000 handsets.

A story in yesterday's paper details how Microsoft has been trying to become a leader in this space.

Bloomberg said with the deal MIcrosoft expects to increase its mobile unit's sales to $1 billion in one to three years, from $337 million last year, and break the dominance of Research In Motion's BlackBerry.

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April 3, 2006

Ringtone sales growth will slow

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 1:23 PM

Despite some forecasts, ringtone sales will continue to grow in 2006 -- just more slowly, according to BMI, a performing rights organization that represents more than 6.5 million musical works from more than 300,000 songwriters.

BMI, which released its annual report for U.S. ringtone sales today, says that the ringtone market will total more than $600 million in retail sales this year.

In 2005, the market totaled $500 million, up sharply from $245 million in 2004 and the prior year's $68 million.

Although there is still growth on the horizon, the estimates do show that the market is maturing. The estimates for 2006 show the growth rate will slow to about 20 percent year-over-year growth, where in years past it has more than doubled.

This can be attributed to a number of factors, including an increase in the number of savvy phone owners who have learned how to manipulate MP3s into a ringtone without having to buy one. As this occurs, companies that sell many ringtones will have to adjust. Check out the speculation as to why Dijji, a Seattle-based ringtone seller, may be closing its doors here.

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Microsoft buys ProClarity

Posted by Kim Peterson at 1:21 PM

Microsoft said today it's buying ProClarity, a company based in Boise, Idaho, that makes data analysis software. ProClarity's products work with Microsoft's Office and database programs and can mine data for use by customers. Terms of the deal weren't disclosed.

ProClarity was founded in 1995 and it will remain in Idaho after the deal closes. The two companies already share 1,200 mutual customers.

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Investment forum deadline extended

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 12:40 PM

The WSA said today it has extended the deadline for companies to apply for this year's Investment Forum, which will be held May 25 at the Bell Harbor Convention Center.

The original deadline was today, but it has been extended to noon on April 17.

Selected companies will be able to choose between making pitches to investors or sales presentations to chief information officers at large companies. A panel of industry experts will provide immediate feedback on a company's product or service.

And, for the first time, presenting companies also can participate in the Investment Forum Technology Showcase. The Technology Showcase is an exhibit area designed to give additional opportunities for attendees to talk informally with companies.

A total of 32 companies will be selected to participate from across Washington, Oregon and British Columbia.

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The E3 madness begins

Posted by Kim Peterson at 12:39 PM

The Electronics Entertainment Expo, an annual video-game convention, starts May 10 at the Los Angeles Convention Center, but Microsoft and Nintendo are holding their respective press conferences a day early to get some time with journalists. And today, Sony announced that its press conference will be on May 8 -- two days before. This is getting a little ridiculous.

In other industry news, reports that Microsoft is going to hit the reset button for the Xbox 360 in Japan, and will relaunch the video game system there in June.

Microsoft readily admits that the 360's Japanese launch didn't go as well as it could have. Part of the problem was that "Dead or Alive 4," a key game that had been timed for launch, was delayed. But there were other factors at play as well.

The report says Microsoft will hold a press conference in Japan next week to announce the relaunch. I asked Microsoft for confirmation and was told the company will not comment on rumor or speculation.

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CTIA: Seattle hits the strip

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 12:25 PM

More than 35,000 people are expected to attend CTIA Wireless 2006, which is being held this year at the Las Vegas Convention Center, and more than 1,000 companies are expected to exhibit -- a number of them from the Seattle area.

Bellevue-based RadioFrame Networks announced a partnership with Nokia today. The largest handset manufacturer in the world will resell and distribute RadioFrame's mini cell phone towers, which can provide better coverage indoors for homes and small to medium-sized businesses. See today's story in the business section for more information.

The list of local companies in attendance also includes: T-Mobile USA, SNAPin, Wireless Services, InfoSpace, UIEvolution,, Junxion Box, GoGoMo, Airbiquity, RealNetworks, Action Engine, Medio Systems, Volantis, Microsoft, Inrix, Qpass, M:Metrics, Mophone and more.

Another story today details how Microsoft is making inroads into the mobile space, which is becoming more sophisticated every day.

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CTIA: Off to the races

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 11:30 AM

It's Monday, two days before the official start of CTIA Wireless 2006, the big annual mobile trade show, and already there's a slew of announcements trying to get out before the bell.

Here's a taste of what's already announced:

-- M:Metrics found that owners of portable music devices, especially owners of the Apple iPod, are more than twice as likely than average mobile subscribers to use music and video applications on their mobile phone and to express a willingness to pay for such services in the future. The Seattle research firm says that shows people want their phone to be a multi-purpose device and want to access content from their mobile phone.

-- Research firm Telephia announced today that more than 20 percent of the top deck slots -- meaning the main screen showing a wireless carrier's storefront on the phone -- are occupied by poker game titles. (We might add, that it's very fitting news for a convention that's about to start in Las Vegas).

-- Sprint said it will start to sell the Motorola C290. It is the first Motorola phone that has Sprint's PCS Vision service, which allows consumers to download the latest images, ringers, games, and other applications. The phone, which is $179.99 or $29.99 after rebate, has a large display and sleek design. For more information, go to this Web site.

-- Research firm Informa Telecoms & Media said today that it expects three themes to dominate this year's show. They are wireless broadband, mobile TV and mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs). An MVNO is a service provider that uses another carrier's physical network to launch its own branded cellular service, much like how Amp'd Mobile uses Verizon Wireless.

-- AOL announced today a mobile browsing service that automatically adapts Web pages for the smaller mobile screen. The service can be used by wireless subscribers with Web-enabled phones. It also debuted MapQuest's new service that makes it easier for consumers to access on mobile phones.

-- The AOL announcement coincided with a report that came out this morning about cell phone use in America. It was conducted by AP, AOL and the Pew Internet & American Life Project. The report found that people aged 18 to 29 and minorities are more likely than others to use their phones as personal computers, digital music players, cameras and more.

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Simonyi in space?

Posted by Kristi Heim at 10:15 AM

Former Microsoft software developer and Intentional Software founder Charles Simonyi is set to become the world's fifth space tourist, Reuters reports this morning. The Hungarian-born Simonyi has a preliminary contract with the Russian space agency to visit the International Space Station aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket next spring, according to the report.

The price tag for a one-week vacation in space? A cool $20 million. For only $3 million, the Seattle philanthropist and father of Microsoft Word had an entire floor of a library named after him.

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Congrats Placeholder Team!

Posted by Monica Soto at 10:09 AM sent a promo e-mail to customers a day too early, offering them a chance to buy gear from the 2006 NCAA Men's Basketball championship team ... whoever they are.

The e-mail:

From: []
Sent: Monday, April 03, 2006 7:41 AM
Subject: [placeholder for winning team] Wins the NCAA Tournament!

Congratulations, [placeholder for winning team]! As someone who has purchased sports products from, we thought you should be the first to see our selection of NCAA championship products.

The writer of this e-mail may have money on the Bruins. While the e-mail subject congratulated an unspecified team, the promo headline declared UCLA the winners.

The Bruins face the Florida Gators 6:21 tonight for the national title.

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Tricia Duryee
Tricia Duryee

Angel Gonzalez
Angel Gonzalez

Kristi Heim
Kristi Heim

Benjamin J. Romano
Benjamin J. Romano

Mark Watanabe