Impinj getting some competition
Posted by Kristi Heim at 4:55 PM
Seattle's Impinj has quietly become the leader in production of cutting edge silicon chips for radio frequency identification tags, the tiny tags used to identify and track goods in manufacturing and retail.
Now the company is about to get some competition from Texas Instruments. TI said today it began offering its own so-called Gen 2 RFID chips, which take RFID technology to a more advanced level in terms of fast and accurate data reading and lower power consumption.
Until today, TI had to buy RFID silicon from Impinj, which had 100 percent market share in Gen 2 chips (Impinj designs the chips and has them manufactured by Taiwan Semiconductor). Impinj might find another less direct competitor in Hewlett-Packard, which is developing a wireless chip that exchanges data between an object and a reader, like RFID, but with higher speed and more storage capability. But HP says it needs several more years to bring its chip to market.
Microsoft security expert heads to Amazon
Posted by Benjamin J. Romano at 3:37 PM
A Microsoft computer security expert who advocated for a key feature of the Windows Vista operating system -- billed as the company's most secure -- is leaving for Amazon.com.
Jesper Johansson, senior security strategist in the security technology unit at Microsoft, gave notice on his blog Friday evening after circulating an internal e-mail. The news comes as Microsoft heads to the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas this week.
Johansson is credited with advocating for the least-privileged user account configuration, which limits access rights to maintain security and will be the default setting in Windows Vista. eWeek has more on this.
He also co-authored "Protecting Your Windows Network", a top security book.
Johansson said on his blog he leaves Microsoft Sept. 1 and starts at Amazon on Sept. 5 as principal security program manager.
E3 scaled down to just "E"
Posted by Kim Peterson at 1:07 PM
The Electronic Entertainment Expo, an annual video-game convention in Los Angeles, is being toned down from the over-the-top tradeshow of years past. See this story for more details. The new name of the show is tentatively the "E3 Media Festival."
Reactions to the announcement today:
"Unless you're working in the industry or the newsmedia, you can probably kiss four-hour lines, shuffling masses and the orgy of sound, fury and schwag farewell." - LA Voice
"Instead of one giant update, showing the community what's in store for the next year, there's going to be periodic updates held worldwide. Is this better? We'll see." - Gizmodo
"The new E3 is going to get exactly one chance to prove it's worth going to. If E307 doesn't impress I doubt many mainstream journalists will return." - Kotaku
"When the richest girl can't be the most beautiful, at some point she's going to take her things (and her money) and go elsewhere. Until we can get some facts beyond hazy explainations in press releases, the reason the spectacle part of E3 has been killed seems to be a matter of financial sour grapes." - 1Up.com
"We are very supportive of ESA's decision in providing a new vision for E3. Over the past 12 years, the industry has grown and matured and it's great to see the show evolving to meet the needs of the industry." -- Microsoft spokesman
Xbox in Japan, an update
Posted by Kim Peterson at 3:15 PM
Microsoft surely must have some tricks up its sleeve for improving Xbox 360 sales in Japan. Time to roll those tricks out.
In a one-week period in Japan (from July 17 to 23), Microsoft sold 1,472 Xbox 360 units, according to statistics compiled by Media Create Co. and listed on Punch Jump.
It's not that consumers there aren't buying game hardware. For that same week, buyers snapped up 262, 453 Nintendo DS Lites, 35,938 Sony PSPs and 22,288 PlayStation 2s.
The company did a little better earlier, selling nearly 1,900 Xbox 360 units in Japan the last week of June, according to this story.
Japan's population, by the way, is 127,463,610.
Amazon.com builds buzz for eventual movie purchase
Posted by Kim Peterson at 1:55 PM
The Washington Post has a good article today detailing how Amazon.com took it up on itself to pump up buzz for the novel "The Stolen Child." Amazon has bought the rights to turn the now best-selling novel into a movie.
Mainstream outlets weren't clamoring to review the book when it was released, the article said. So Amazon sent galleys to 100 of the site's top reviewers and posted their laudatory reactions. Suddenly, mainstream newspapers were paying attention.
Amazon also put more than 2 million stickers advertising the book on boxes it was shipping to customers. It didn't charge the book's publisher for this placement.
Microsoft gobbles more Eastside office space
Posted by Benjamin J. Romano at 12:42 PM
Microsoft plans to move in to 87,000-square-feet of primo Issaquah office space on Nov. 1. The company has signed a lease agreement with Wells Real Estate Investment Trust for more than half of the five-story Eastpointe Corporate Center.
Wells, which announced the deal today, also extended an existing lease with Boeing for the rest of the 158,000-square-foot, class-A space. Boeing has been a tenant there since 2001.
Both companies committed to five-year lease deals at the building on Black Nugget Road. Other terms were not disclosed.
Microsoft is adding 3.1 million square feet of office space to ease crowding on its campus and has been actively leasing Eastside office space, including a deal for the top 15 floors of Lincoln Tower in Bellevue.
Test version of Office 2007 no longer free
Posted by Benjamin J. Romano at 12:02 PM
Microsoft's beta 2 version of Office 2007 will cost $1.50 starting Aug. 2, the company said through its PR agency today.
"Given how dramatically the beta 2 downloads have exceeded our goals, we have made the business decision to implement a cost recovery measure for downloading the beta," a spokeswoman said in an e-mail.
Since the test version was released in May, more than 3 million people have downloaded it.
The company will continue to offer a free online "test drive" of Office 2007, which is due for business customers by the end of this year and for broad availability in early 2007.
Glaser: Microsoft has abandoned its partners
Posted by Kim Peterson at 10:58 AM
Microsoft's decision to control the hardware and software for its upcoming Zune media player shows the company has "thrown the baby out with the bath water," Chief Executive Rob Glaser said Thursday during the company's earnings call. That could send some of Microsoft's previous hardware partners over RealNetworks' way, he added.
"The fact that Microsoft has in effect abandoned all of these guys and said, 'Hey, you know, we're doing it ourselves. We're going to follow the Apple/iPod model, the Xbox model,' we think is a great gift from them and we're grateful for it and we intend to fully capitalize on it."
Glaser said that RealNetworks will prove that it is possible to deliver a total music package "without one company doing everything." That's a big promise, considering that so far neither RealNetworks nor anyone else has managed to draw a significant share of the market away from Apple.
Other details from RealNetworks' second-quarter earnings call:
Profit was $38.9 million, or 22 cents a share, up from $4.71 million, or 3 cents, a year earlier. Sales rose 8.1 percent to $89.4 million. About $35 million in the results came from a Microsoft antitrust settlement payment to the company.
FAM: We knew it was big, but...
Posted by Benjamin J. Romano at 3:45 PM
Microsoft CFO Chris Liddell gave a recap of the $20 billion tender offer to buyback stock, announced during the company's fourth quarter earnings report last week. And he added this little factoid:
"It's about five times bigger than any other tender that's been carried out," he told a room full of financial analysts. "This is unprecedented in terms of size and in terms of commitment, from our point of view, to return $20 billion in 20 days."
Taking a longer view, he outlined how Microsoft has used its cash between fiscal year 2002 and 2006:
Net cash generated from operations: $76 billion
Dividends: $10 billion
Special dividends: $33 billion
Buybacks: $43 billion
That's $86 billion returned to shareholders. The company spent $7 billion on acquisitions and capital expenditures.
Posted by Benjamin J. Romano at 2:15 PM
Analysts say one of the best things about Microsoft's Financial Analyst Meeting is the informal opportunities to talk with the big dogs. The Wall Street types say they value the insight they get directly from conversations with key decision makers in the hallways and around the tables at lunch.
In years past, the analysts jockeyed for positions next to Bill Gates. Gates isn't here today. He's on vacation, and he's also in transition, moving over the next two years to full-time work at his philanthropy. In a very visual reminder that the technical leadership here is changing, a big crowd at today's lunch gathered around Ray Ozzie, who holds the chief software architect title that once belonged to Gates.
The lunch buffet opened shortly after Ozzie gave the big-think technical overview, focusing on the Internet services transition. Gates has delivered those overviews at previous Financial Analyst Meetings.
There's always a crowd around CEO Steve Ballmer, and he's expert at making himself heard all the way to the outer ring of chairs pulled closer to his table. His baritone was audible above the din of a score or more of other conversations, and the sound of hundreds of forks. The analysts, a uniform group of mostly mid-30s to late-40s men with close-cropped hair, crisp shirts and smart phones, leaned in and kept their eyes locked on the CEO.
But no matter how well Ballmer projected his voice, the media can't share what he said. All conversations with executives outside of their formal, on-stage presentations are off the record.
FAM: Long-term plans for Zune
Posted by Kim Peterson at 12:09 PM
Microsoft is planning to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in developing the Zune portable media player over the next several years, said Robbie Bach, president of the company's entertainment and devices division, in a presentation to analysts.
"If you want to think about the investment timeline, you can't think that this is a six-month initiative," he said. Zune could be an investment of three to five years, he added.
By year's end, Microsoft is planning to debut a handheld music and entertainment device in the United States under the name Zune. Next year, Bach said, the company plans to offer more Zune devices and expand into other countries.
Bach emphasized the community and sharing aspect of the Zune player and the software platform that will accompany it. Users will be able to share their favorite music with friends, he said. They'll also be able to do that with videos, including the home-grown, user-submitted videos that are popular on sites like YouTube.
Zune will have ties to a vast ecosystem of Microsoft products, including the Xbox Live, MSN and Windows Live services, the Xbox 360 console and cable and television software systems, Bach said.
"The experience of having Zune in that connected environment is a dramatically better experience than what you have in a portable music player," he said.
Advertising pie, Part 2
Posted by Tricia Duryee at 11:26 AM
There's a Forrester study that reinforces Ben Romano's entry down below about the amount of advertising dollars going towards the Internet being low compared to the size of the Internet's audience.
The study, in fact, was brought to my attention earlier this week by Zillow.com, the site that gives you estimates on how much your home is worth. Zillow announced on Tuesday that it had raised $25 million in venture capital.
Zillow's business model is based on getting advertising to the site. The company said the interesting point about the study was that consumers spend more time online than with any other medium (TV, radio, etc.). In fact, they spent 34 percent of their total media time online, even though only 6 percent of ad dollars are spent online.
The logical assumption is that the gap is poised to narrow -- advertisers will spend more money where people are more of their time.
The executive summary for the report can be found here.
In wireless, smaller is better
Posted by Tricia Duryee at 11:03 AM
Startups in wireless have an edge over the search behemoths like Google and Yahoo!, according to a Wall Street Journal story today.
It explains that carriers are reluctant to hand over control to the big brands, so they are more likely to choose a small company when it comes to performing search on a phone.
One company, in particular, that is gaining traction, the story said, is Medio Systems, a Seattle-based company that builds search software for the mobile phone. It said the company is close to signing a deal with Verizon Wireless.
"Verizon's users will be able to search for downloadable multimedia content through a Medio-powered search bar. Medio is also developing a service to allow ads based on search results, similar to the model Google and Yahoo have pioneered on the Internet," the story said.
It was that advertising model that I explored in a story in April about Medio after it bought Seattle-based AdRelevance.
Parents: PCs only good for cheating and "Half-Life 2"
Posted by Kim Peterson at 10:47 AM
Computers? Bah, who needs 'em?
That might be the thinking of some U.S. adults who have a family member going back to school. According to a survey by Harris Interactive and commissioned by Yahoo!, a third of those adults don't think that computers or technology products are vital tools that students need in school.
More than half of respondents think that students want high-tech gadgets more for social status and cool factor than for educational purposes, and 30 percent think students commonly use technology to cheat on schoolwork or tests.
That doesn't bode well for back-to-school sales. Looks like PC makers have some direct-to-parent marketing to do.
Amazon.com starts producing films
Posted by Kim Peterson at 10:09 AM
Amazon.com has harbored not-so-secret Hollywood ambitions for a while, and now the company is jumping into the business by producing its first feature film, Variety reports.
The online retailer has optioned the screen rights to the novel "The Stolen Child" and will find a filmmaker and a studio for the film. It doesn't want to finance the movie, Variety said, but will promote it on its Web site.
Amazon pulls out the stops for the book on its Web site, gushing that it is "a perfect blend of literary fantasy and realism that kept us captivated until the very end." The site includes comments from other Amazon reviewers, an autobiographical note from the author, a schedule of bookstore readings (Elliot Bay on Aug. 21) and "the story behind the story."
The story, by the way, is reportedly about a child that gets kidnapped by forest changelings who replace him with a look-alike.
Hopefully Amazon will learn a few lessons from another Seattle company, Starbucks, which saw some disappointing box-office returns on its first movie project, "Akeelah and the Bee."
FAM: The advertising pie
Posted by Benjamin J. Romano at 9:37 AM
Kevin Johnson described the market that Microsoft, Google and Yahoo! are vying for against traditional media when it comes to advertising.
Johnson, Microsoft's co-president of the Platform and Services Division posted a graphic depicting $580 billion in global advertising spending during 2006. But the slice of the pie that the Internet companies are going after is currently pretty slim. Online advertising is projected to be $27 billion, or about 4.7 percent.
That leaves a lot of territory, especially given that desirable audiences are spending much more than 4.7 percent of their time consuming media online. Here's where the rest of that money goes:
Print: $176 billion
Television: $151 billion
Directories and specialist media: $87 billion
Direct mail: $79 billion
Radio: $34 billion
Other: $26 billion
Microsoft's chief ad man, Yusuf Mehdi, showed off progress on the company's adCenter system.
Mehdi said adCenter, launched two months ago, has had its first $1 million day, ahead of the company's internal schedule. He said the company's goals for the product include expanding the inventory of advertising opportunities for sale through the system, including non-Microsoft properties; improving returns for advertisers; and attracting more advertisers to use the system.
He demonstrated how a cardiologist could build an online advertising campaign specifically targeting men age 25 to 50 who live in San Jose and surf the Web during the work week. "That's something you can't do in other systems," Mehdi said.
FAM: First Vista update
Posted by Benjamin J. Romano at 9:05 AM
Kevin Johnson, co-president of Microsoft's Platforms and Services Divison, gave the Financial Analyst Meeting its first indication of Vista's status. It's more or less the same song the company has been singing since it announced the operating system's delay in March.
"At this point in time, we have no data or information that says we're not going to make the November business availability or the January consumer availability, however, we're going to ship the product when it's ready," Johnson said.
Pricing for the product will be announced closer to the product's availability, he said. And pricing will be comparable to the status quo, with the exception of the Windows Vista Ultiimate version -- including all bells, whistles -- for which users will pay a premium.
Johnson passed along Jim Allchin's regards to the audience, noting that his fellow Platform and Services Division co-president couldn't be here at the moment because he's "driving hard" on Vista.
MSFT headcount detailed
Posted by Benjamin J. Romano at 8:45 AM
On June 16, Ballmer said Microsoft employs more than 70,000 people globally. Now we know exactly how many workers the company has, and where.
With no fanfare, Microsoft updated its Web site to reflect employment figures as of July 25.
Sept. 30, 2005: 63,564
July 25, 2006: 71,553, increase of 7,989 or 12.6 percent
Sept. 30, 2005: 40,081
July 25, 2006: 44,298, increase of 4,217 or 10.5 percent
Puget Sound employees
Sept. 30, 2005: 30,255
July 25, 2006: 33,333, increase of 3,078 or 10.2 percent
FAM: Ballmer declares new era
Posted by Benjamin J. Romano at 8:38 AM
CEO Steve Ballmer kicked off the Financial Analyst Meeting this morning with the declaration of a new era at Microsoft.
He started by listing a series of recent firsts, both personally and for the company:
Ballmer took his first trip, outside of the context of this annual meeting, to Wall Street to talk with analysts and investors.
"If the dialogue that I had recently when I was [talking to Wall Street] is any indication, I'm sure we'll have quite a lively day," he noted.
It was the first time he felt like analysts and other company watchers were asking real questions about the potential paybacks of Microsoft's investments. In the past, he was asked whether Microsoft would win or lose, but there were never questions about whether the company's investments would be successful.
This is the first Financial Analyst Meeting without Bill Gates, who is on vacation somewhere in Africa, Ballmer said. This is also the first time Ballmer has addressed the investor community broadly since Gates announced his plan to transition during the next two years from full-time to part-time work at Microsoft.
He noted how that will change his own role.
"On June 16, I said, 'Look, over the next two years, I have to become the full-time champion of innovation,'" Ballmer said. He also noted that Craig Mundie and Ray Ozzie, who are assuming many of Gates' responsibilities and will present later today, will focus on innovation as well.
He said the new era of Microsoft will be more exciting, generate more shareholder value and drive more innovation to change the world for the better.
Now we await the details.
Can we buy a vowel?
Posted by Tricia Duryee at 11:35 AM
On Tuesday, after Motorola announced its new line of four-letter phones, including the Krzr and the Scpl, I asked what could conceivably be next -- the Tzr, which would be standard issue for police?
I spoke too soon.
No, don't worry, it's not the Tzr, but Kyocera came out with a new phone today called the Oystr. Being sold by Virgin Mobile USA, Oystr is named appropriately after its metallic ivory clamshell handset.
When does this go too far?
GarageBand.com gets funding for iLike
Posted by Kim Peterson at 10:46 AM
Seattle was once a hotbed of innovation in the digital music business, but lately it seems like some of that action has dried up a little bit. That may change with iLike, the new venture headed by Hadi Partovi, who resigned as manager of the MSN portal and content group last October, and his twin brother, Ali.
The Partovis are working on a software application and service called iLike to help iPod and iTunes users organize their music and discover new songs based on their interests. It's designed to work smoothly with Apple Computer 's products.
Hadi Partovi told me yesterday that the company isn't going exclusively with Apple, but the iPod platform is the most logical one to work with right now, given its market dominance. Later on, iLike would expand to other media-player systems, and given Partovi's employment history it's a good bet he's looking closely at Zune possibilities.
GarageBand.com, iLike's parent company, announced today it has received $2.5 million in equity financing from investors that include well-known venture capitalist Vinod Khosla and MTV co-founder Bob Pittman. The money will mostly be spent on developing the engineering team and the iLike product, Partovi said.
These days, $2.5 million isn't a whole lot in financing deals, and I asked David Weiden, the general partner at Khosla's VC firm why the investment in GarageBand wasn't bigger.
"We encourage people to raise just what they need to run their business and that's it," Weiden said. "That's just what they did. They're frugal and they're creative and they really focus on just what's necessary to build a great business."
GarageBand.com is technically headquartered in San Francisco, but the company splits its 15-person staff between that city and Seattle, Partovi said.
Microsoft delves deeper in healthcare IT
Posted by Benjamin J. Romano at 10:34 AM
Microsoft said today it's buying a software program that collects and displays a wide variety of patient data, including routine clinical information, X-rays and other imaging scans. The acquisition of Azyxxi (say that three times fast ... or just once, if you can) moves the company further into the healthcare information technology sector.
The program, based on Microsoft technology, was developed by doctors at Washington, D.C., Hospital Center and first used in the emergency department there 10 years ago. It's designed to give doctors immediate access to a patient's records -- gathered from disparate systems -- to reduce delays in making decisions about care.
Financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. Azyxxi's creators and about 40 employees from Washington Hospital will join Microsoft and continue working on the product. They will be part of Microsoft's new healthcare group, led by Peter Neupert, who reports to Craig Mundie, chief research and strategy officer. Neupert is a former CEO of drugstore.com. Check out this story for more on Microsoft's efforts in healthcare.
In addition, Microsoft said it is partnering with MedStar Health, Washington Hospital's parent, to develop new features for Azyxxi.
Motorola continues name game
Posted by Tricia Duryee at 2:24 PM
Motorola unveiled the latest set of thin phones today, in hopes of matching its flagship fast-selling phenomon, like the ultra-thin "Razr." And, like the Razr, its new phone lineup is short on vowels and high in fashion.
The new model is called "Krzr" (pronounced CRAY-zer). It is made of magnesium, polished chrome and hardened glass. It has a music player, a camera and is one centimeter trimmer than the Razr.
Other devices include the "Risr," a music phone whose cover slides off to uncover a keypad.
What's next? The Tzr? It would be standard issue for police officers.
Energy technology projects sizzle
Posted by Kristi Heim at 2:22 PM
Energy continues to be a hot area for entrepreneurs. Two Seattle companies won grants from the Washington Technology Center to help commercialize their technology. 3TIER provides tools to analyze renewable energy resources like wind, water and solar power. The company, which we profiled a couple of weeks ago, is collaborating with the University of Washington's Civil and Environmental Engineering department to develop forecast techniques for stream flows used in hydropower, which generates 76 percent of the state's electricity.
EnerG2 develops carbon-based material for high-performance capacitors used in energy storage, which could improve the way alternative fuel vehicles capture energy. The company is partnering with the University of Washington's Materials Science and Engineering Department.
3TIER and EnerG2 were among 11 companies receiving a total of $952,000 in grants. Clean energy is also the topic of a breakfast forum Aug. 17 with Rep. Jay Inslee and Martin Tobias, CEO of Imperium Renewables.
News Corp.'s broadband interests
Posted by Tricia Duryee at 12:36 PM
Rumors have been circulating for a while now that Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. was looking at investing in broadband wireless in order for its satellite TV division to effectively compete with cable companies.
The exact message Murdoch had been circulating was that his company was interested in investing up to $1 billion into a wireless broadband company. A potential partner was Craig McCaw's Clearwire in Kirkland.
Murdoch revealed a little more of his thoughts on the issue in a lengthy Q&A in today's Boston Globe.
I'd like to highlight two of his answers. On the timing of wireless broadband, Murdoch said: "I would expect to have wireless broadband advanced in at least two or three cities before the end of this year, and then it might take two or three years to build it out across the entire country."
On using cash to make a wireless broadband acquisition, vs. saving cash by forming a partnership, he said: "Yes, but you have to contribute your part of the partnership. We're talking about a lot of money there. Otherwise, we'll continue to be opportunistic as before. Great opportunities occur around the world; we'll act on them."
After hearing those responses, it isn't clear whether it would be Clearwire or not. First, Clearwire has service in almost 30 markets today. It would easily be able to fulfill Murdoch's vision of building out two cities by the end of the year. But it would take a lot of money to be a partner with Clearwire, considering it has already raised nearly $2 billion in equity and debt.
Yaris: So your rebel clan can plunder in style
Posted by Kim Peterson at 11:51 AM
Microsoft's new subsidiary Massive has begun placing interactive advertising in video games, and Toyota is its first customer. The 2007 Yaris sedan will be advertised in "Anarchy Online," a massively multiplayer online game about warring factions fighting for control of a distant desert planet.
I'd love to see how the Yaris sedan fits into that scenario.
Suitor loses interest
Posted by Kristi Heim at 10:37 AM
So CDC Corp's hot pursuit of Onyx is officially over. The Hong Kong-based company said this morning that it has withdrawn its offer to buy the Bellevue CRM software vendor for $5 a share. Onyx said it will go through with its deal to be acquired by M2M Holdings of Indiana for $4.80 a share, or about $92 million, pending approval by shareholders.
CDC and Onyx never really hit it off, feuding since their first contact, or you might say lack of contact, last year.
Microsoft exec heads to AOL
Posted by Kim Peterson at 10:34 AM
Microsoft has lost an executive to AOL. Michael Wehrs was most recently director of business and industry development at Microsoft, and had the task of increasing industry adoption of Microsoft products, including the upcoming Vista operating system.
Before that he was a key strategist in Microsoft's wireless division, and I interviewed him in that role two years ago for this article.
Wehrs is returning to the wireless side of the business at AOL, and will be chief technical evangelist and the public face for the company's wireless group. He will also be working closely with the group's external partners as well as organizations in industry and government. He'll be based in AOL's Seattle office, which is also the headquarters of the company's wireless division.
Wehrs has been an interim executive at Ignition Partners. He's also held executive positions at Samsung Electronics America and Orcatron Communications.
McCaw's B.C. getaway
Posted by Tricia Duryee at 2:02 PM
Craig McCaw has taken over the lease of a key block of Sidney waterfront property in British Columbia, according to a story in The Vancouver Sun.
The newspaper reported that McCaw, currently the co-CEO of Kirkland-based Cleawire, leased the property through one of his businesses. The property is owned by the town, which leases it out. The lease lasts until 2038, with an option of 25 additional years.
The story asks: "Why would a Seattle-based billionaire whose name is often on lists of the world's richest people want a block of Sidney-by-the-Sea?"
The answer, it says, comes from Howard Trott, who handles investments for McCaw: "We just love the town of Sidney and want to be part of it. We love the Saanich Peninsula. It has sort of become a second home to us all. Where you love to be, you love to participate. It's as simple as that."
Wonder if there's any other reason than that?
McCaw does owns James Island, a couple of kilometers off Central Saanich on South Vancouver Island. He bought the island in 1994 for $19 million.
Amazon.com's new digital video service
Posted by Kim Peterson at 12:42 PM
Amazon.com is likely to launch a digital video-download service next month, Advertising Age reports. The service, called Amazon Digital Video (or Amazon DV), will include a subscription service and the option to download a la carte movies and television shows, according to the article.
There has been talk for years about Amazon starting a music service that would perhaps compete with Apple's iTunes or RealNetworks' Rhapsody. But Amazon thought it would be too difficult to break into the market with Apple's dominant lead, the article said.
Sounds like users will have to install Amazon's software on their computers to be able to purchase videos or subscribe to them. Introducing yet another video software program is a little risky, and Google Video is a prime example of a launch gone wrong. One thing can be said in Amazon's favor: The company has sure had enough time to work on this.
The growing non-English blogosphere
Posted by Kristi Heim at 10:43 AM
Feel like you're aging fast? Blog search service Technorati is already 3 years old. To mark the anniversary, CEO David Sifry has some interesting data on the blogosphere here.
Sifry says part of Technorati's new redesign is based on a newspaper's organization by section. Scroll down his page and you'll find, in nice color-coded charts, a breakdown of blog posts showing that the vast majority are not in English. In fact, the percentage of English-language blogs declined from 44 percent in April 2005 to 31 percent this March.
Japanese language blogs are growing fast and make up the largest chunk. Chinese language blogs are not far behind, and most of them are hosted by Microsoft's MSN Spaces.
Microsoft confirms Zune music player
Posted by Kim Peterson at 4:21 PM
Steve Jobs in January: "What's going to happen is that Microsoft is going to have to get into the hardware business of making MP3 players. This year."
Microsoft today: "We confirmed a new music and entertainment project called Zune. Under the Zune brand, we will deliver a family of hardware and software products, the first of which will be available this year. We see a great opportunity to bring together technology and community to allow consumers to explore and discover music together."
Think Apple might be a little ready for this?
Microsoft confirmed a few of the rumors today and said that, yes, it is going to have a device with the Zune brand on store shelves by the holidays.
Zune has two developer blogs and its own "coming attractions" Web site. (Are those incompatible with Firefox or is it just me?)
Microsoft chose Billboard magazine as the place to officially confirm Zune, an unusual step that may signal where the company is headed with its marketing and approach to the product launch.
Some initial reaction to the announcement:
Jupiter analyst Michael Gartenberg: "Bottom line, when Microsoft decides to enter a market, you can't ignore the impact they will make. It's likely that by force of will and spending lots of money on marketing with a high cost of acquisition on new users, they will can capture some market share."
Microsoft Watch: "The biggest challenge for Microsoft, at least in the short term, will be to make sure the Zune reality measures up to the hype, so the company doesn't repeat its overpromising/underdelivering strategy, as it did with the 'Origami' Ultra-Mobile PCs."
Microsoft Monitor: "The time has come when Microsoft is willing to compete, and sometimes fiercely so, with its partners."
TechCrunch: "It will be interesting to see if the company can take a position of real innovation or whether Zune will just be a case of playing catch up -- at the risk of feature overload."
ESPN/Disney Mobile, fold now!
Posted by Tricia Duryee at 10:36 AM
That's what Merrill Lynch says.
In a note to investors, the brokerage called for ESPN to "throw in the towel" on its branded mobile phone service, according to a story in Mediaweek. In a separate news item, Merrill Lynch analysts were quoted as also questioning Disney Mobile.
The two reports question the idea of the MVNO, short for mobile virtual network operator, in which a company buys minutes from an existing cellphone network and rebrands them to target a market segment.
The Mediaweek story said analysts Jessica Reif Cohen and Michael Kopelman wrote that "it is time for Disney to pull the plug on Mobile ESPN," because it has had little luck in landing paying subscribers since Disney launched the service during Super Bowl XL.
The analysts estimated that ESPN Mobile, which resells minutes on the Sprint network, will gain only 30,000 subscribers this year, well below the original estimate of 240,000.
In the case of Disney Mobile, paidcontent.org quotes analysts as saying: "We are increasingly skeptical of the prospects for this service [Disney] as well.... More importantly, we believe that most parents who purchase cell phone service for their children [Disney's target market] are likely to do so by adding a line to their existing plan [i.e., staying with their provider, but moving to a family plan].
Disney's model hoped for the opposite -- that parents will buy their child a Disney phone, and then they will migrate over. Perhaps, but seemingly less likely.
F5 Networks to restate five years of results
Posted by Kristi Heim at 2:21 PM
F5 Networks will restate its financial results from 2001 through the first two quarters of 2006 in light of an investigation into its stock options compensation practices, the company disclosed this afternoon.
F5 said financial statements for periods starting Oct. 1, 2000, "should no longer be relied upon." F5, one of the companies named in a federal investigation into the timing of stock-option grants, has received inquiries from the U.S. attorney in New York and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) seeking details on how they grant stock options to executives. F5 is also facing three shareholder lawsuits alleging its top executives and directors defrauded the company and its shareholders by receiving millions of improperly backdated stock options.
The company also said a special committee of F5 board members would not complete its review in time to publish financial statements for the third quarter, ended June 30, by the SEC deadline of Aug. 14.
Bezos invests in Chicago startup
Posted by Kim Peterson at 1:44 PM
Amazon.com Chief Executive Jeff Bezos has made a private investment in 37Signals, the company announced in its blog today. The funding is actually through Bezos' personal investment company, Bezos Expeditions.
The Chicago-based company makes Web-based applications such as the project management program Basecamp and the personal organizer Backpack.
In the blog posting, 37Signals founder Jason Fried says the company has been contacted by about 30 venture capital firms, but was more interested in what someone like Bezos could bring to the table:
What we've been looking for is the wisdom of a very special entrepreneur who's been through what we're going through. Someone who sees things a little differently and makes us feel right at home. Someone with a long term outlook, not a build-to-flip mentality. We found a perfect match in Jeff. Jeff is our kinda guy.
(Via Om Malik.)
Cingular's Q2 Earnings highest ever
Posted by Tricia Duryee at 11:37 AM
Cingular Wireless, owned by AT&T and BellSouth, reported that in the second quarter it had its highest-ever net income, $540 million, a year-over-year increase of 267 percent.
By adding 1.5 million subscribers during the three months ended June 30, it remained the largest carrier in the U.S. with 57.3 million subscribers.
In order to book those kind of subscriber gains, it kept its customer departures low. It reported overall monthly subscriber churn of 1.7 percent, its lowest ever.
That's despite a class action lawsuit filed during the quarter on the behalf of AT&T Wireless customers, who were acquired when Cingular bought the Redmond-based company in 2004.
The lawsuit claims AT&T Wireless customers faced excessive fees, poor service, dropped calls and a network that has not been maintained, as part of a campaign to push former AT&T Wireless customers to switch to Cingular.
The suit, which seeks class-action status, was filed earlier this month in U.S. District Court in Seattle.
Apple's quarterly performance - the breakdown
Posted by Kim Peterson at 11:28 AM
In advance of Microsoft's fiscal year 2006 earnings announcement today, here are a few tidbits from Apple Computer's earnings call yesterday:
1. Mac computer sales represented 55 percent of total sales of $4.37 billion. That revenue fell short of expectations. Analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call had been expecting $4.4 billion.
2. Profit beat expectations at $472 million, or 54 cents per share. Analysts had forecast 44 cents a share.
3. The iPod accounts for more than 75 percent of the U.S. market for digital music players. The iTunes Music Store held an 85 percent share of the market for legally purchased and downloaded music in the U.S.
4. Apple retail stores saw 29 percent year-over-year revenue growth. Internal store surveys show that nearly half of customers buying Macs there are new to the Mac.
5. Apple would not give a firm answer as to whether Boot Camp was actually getting people to switch over from Windows. The programs allows Windows and Windows-based programs to be run on a Mac. Said Chief Operating Officer Timothy Cook:
The number of downloads that we have had are significant, and the customer feedback that we've had on Boot Camp is very, very good. It's clear that for a Windows user that considers switching to a Mac that it makes it even more appealing to them to switch.
Text TV totally cool
Posted by Tricia Duryee at 10:19 AM
Just last month, I wrote about how Seattle-based Blue Frog Mobile was incorporating text messaging into TV shows in Detroit, Indianapolis and Phoenix, and Los Angeles. Its product, TXTV, allowed viewers to send text messages that appear on the bottom of a television screen tuned to participating stations.
The Wall Street Journal has a story today on how the trend of interacting with TV via text messaging is really starting to take off. The story's anecdote was based on a local woman.
The story said: "Darlene Karst, a retired Boeing Co. employee in Arlington, Wash., won $10,000 in March watching NBC's game show "Deal or No Deal" by text messaging a contest answer. Since then she's text messaged CBS's reality show "Big Brother" in support of one of the houseguests."
The point of the story was that text messaging provides a connection between the viewer and what is happening on TV. "It's that kind of connection that has sent the number of TV shows that allow audiences to participate through text messaging skyrocketing as programmers seek out new revenue sources and try to encourage people to watch shows when they are aired, rather than on tape or video on demand," the story said.
Internal Xbox team comic surfaces
Posted by Kim Peterson at 4:42 PM
Andre Vrignaud of Microsoft's Xbox team says the company hired Seattle's Penny Arcade to create a comic for an internal team meeting where executive Robbie Bach outlined the company's plans for the console. This was a few years ago, before the Xbox 360 was released, and the comic was never published outside of Microsoft.
This was to be the internal "big bang" meeting, and we thought it would be pretty cool to see if Penny Arcade might be willing to do a strip that we could distribute with the meeting announcement. I'm pleased to say that they agreed to do us this favor, and the strip you see here was the result. The only "guidance" we gave was that we were looking for a strip about Xbox 2 rumors - that's it.
The strip comes up with four "rumors," and my favorite is the second one: Robbie Bach got help with the hardware after making a deal with an alien race known as the Banvariar.
I wrote an article on Penny Arcade a couple of years ago.
A new method to fight HIV?
Posted by Kristi Heim at 2:37 PM
The Gates Foundation said today it is funding a "highly collaborative" network of 16 research teams around the world to tackle challenges of designing a vaccine to protect against HIV, hoping the global cooperation and $287 million in new funding will accelerate development.
Most of the research so far has been done by small teams working independently, an approach that has resulted in frustratingly slow progress, said Dr. Jose Esparza, senior advisor on HIV vaccines at the Gates Foundation. Esparza said he thinks breakthroughs can be achieved by "working together in new ways."
Among the 165 investigators in 19 countries who will tackle the vaccine design problem is Leo Stamatatos of the Seattle Biomedical Research Institute, a lead investigator on the Gates grant who uses computational biology to create new designs. He has enlisted the help of University of Washington and individuals around the world to donate computing power to the project when their computers are idle.
Amnesty International details Internet censorship
Posted by Kristi Heim at 2:12 PM
Amnesty International has come out with a report about censorship in China that details how Yahoo!, Microsoft and Google have collaborated with Chinese censors in violation of their own values and policies.
The companies have come under fire recently for bowing to pressure from Chinese authorities to filter out politically sensitive content. As a result, they face potential restrictions on how they behave abroad with a bill pending in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Amnesty International is asking companies to exhaust judicial measures before complying with requests that could impact human rights, such as giving out information about email users. It urges companies to call for the release of dissidents jailed for expressing opinions online. AI also created a Website designed to undermine censorship by spreading the news about censored content on individual blogs and Web sites around the world.
Sony reportedly begins PS3 production
Posted by Kim Peterson at 9:59 AM
According to DigiTimes.com, two Chinese-language newspapers are reporting that Sony production partner Asustek Computer began manufacturing PlayStation 3 consoles in early July.
After the first batch of PS3 shipments from Asustek, Foxconn Electronics (the registered trade name of Hon Hai Precision Industry) will also supply Sony's PS3 game consoles when demand rises, indicated the Apple Daily. The paper cited sources at Taiwan component suppliers as saying that about 200,000 component sets were shipped to Asustek in June and the volume will grow this month. From September to October, the suppliers estimate to ship more than one million sets to the game console manufacturer, the paper added.
Looks like things are on track for a November launch.
Clearwire's legal woes
Posted by Tricia Duryee at 9:58 AM
VentureWire reported today that Clearwire's legal tussle over San Francisco Bay area spectrum took an odd turn Tuesday when a lawyer representing the community college district that the company has sued declared that its disputed spectrum lease had jumped in value from roughly $1.8 million to $18 million since it agreed to the deal seven months ago.
I detailed the battle first in this item. The Peralta Community College District had declined to lease the spectrum to Clearwire as it previously agreed to because, it said, Clearwire had failed to follow through with a couple of promises.
Like many educational institutions, Peralta had allotted chunks of the spectrum to Clearwire when its value was not deemed very high. Since then, Clearwire has started to roll out a precursor to WiMax wireless broadband Internet access.
VentureWire said attorneys on both sides said the 15-year lease agreed upon in December is worth $1.8 million. But during Tuesday's hearing in the Northern District Court of California, VentureWire reported that Harold Smith, an attorney representing Peralta, said: "We understand that these rights are worth approximately $18 million now."
That isn't surprising. A trademark of companies started by Craig McCaw, Clearwire's co-CEO, is that it buys up undervalued spectrum, finds a purpose for it, and creates a very valuable company surrounding it.
In its original complaint, Clearwire stressed how important the spectrum was to the company. It said that there was no additional spectrum available in the Bay Area, and it believed its competitors owned a significant portion of the rest.
At Tuesday's hearing, VentureWire said Judge Saundra Armstrong signed a preliminary injunction preventing Peralta from negotiating with third parties for the spectrum. A trial will be scheduled at a September conference, and could possibly get under way before the end of the year.
Sun aims ads directly at Microsoft employees
Posted by Kim Peterson at 9:50 AM
From The New Marketing blog comes word (and photos) of some advertising on buses running routes on the Eastside touting OpenOffice, Sun Microsystems' open-source collection of productivity programs. The ads refer to a "Us-opoly" and tell viewers to "stop giving a bully your lunch money." Other slogans include "compatible with expensive, closed, memory loving software" and "prehistoric reptilians welcome."
You can even buy these slogans on clothing at Sun's Cafepress store.
I thought Microsoft and Sun were making nice?
Sonics sold off; local techies stand to cash in
Posted by Kim Peterson at 3:22 PM
The Sonics and Storm have been sold to an Oklahoma City group for $350 million, which likely means a pretty nice payout for some of the local tech crowd that owned the teams. Click here for the whole list of Sonics team owners.
The techies in the group include:
John Stanton, former chairman of Western Wireless and former CEO of VoiceStream Wireless (now T-Mobile USA)
Theresa Gillespie, Stanton's wife and a former vice-chair of Western Wireless
Peter van Oppen, chief executive of ADIC
W. Russell Daggatt, former Teledesic president
Alan Bender, former Western Wireless and T-Mobile executive and his wife Joyce
Mikal Thomsen, the former president and COO of Western Wireless and wife Lynn
Naveen Jain, chief executive of Intelius
Greg Maffei, former Microsoft executive and chief executive of Liberty Media
What Microsoft has learned
Posted by Benjamin J. Romano at 1:33 PM
Brad Smith, Microsoft's senior vice president and general counsel, is scheduled to tell a Washington, D.C., audience "what the company has learned from more than a decade of regulatory analysis and scrutiny, and how it has incorporated those lessons into a set of guiding principles that it will implement in the development of future generations of the Windows platform, including Windows Vista."
Smith's comments will come a week after Microsoft was hit with heavy fines in its antitrust dispute with the European Commission.
Smith will share Microsoft's "competitive vision and guiding principles" at a lunch tomorrow hosted by the New America Foundation at the National Press Club.
Smashing Ideas buys into Europe
Posted by Kim Peterson at 12:06 PM
Seattle-based Flash developer Smashing Ideas said it has expanded into Western Europe by buying a controlling interest in BlueskyNorth, a producer of mobile content based in Newcastle upon Tyne in the U.K.
The studios will develop casual games and other programs for mobile devices. They did not disclose the terms of the deal. For more information about Smashing Ideas, check out this profile we wrote in March.
Microsoft buys Winternals
Posted by Kim Peterson at 11:34 AM
Microsoft said today it has acquired data protection company Winternals and its freeware tools site Sysinternals. The companies did not announce the financial terms of the deal.
Mark Russinovich, a Winternals co-founder, writes on his blog today that he will join Microsoft as a technical fellow in the Platform and Services Division. Will Microsoft really let a freeware site continue? Russinovich delicately dances around the question:
So what's going to happen to Winternals and Sysinternals? Microsoft is still evaluating the best way to leverage the many different technologies that have been developed by Winternals. Some will find their ways into existing Microsoft products or Windows itself and others will continue on as Microsoft-branded products. As for Sysinternals, the site will remain for the time being while Microsoft determines the best way to integrate it into its own community efforts, and the tools will continue to be free to download.
Symantec peeks under Vista's hood and boos
Posted by Kim Peterson at 11:29 AM
Some researchers at security company Symantec have taken a look at an early version of Windows Vista, and they don't like what they see, according to this News.com report.
They found several security bugs and determined that Vista's networking technology will be less stable, at least in the short run, than Windows XP's, the report said.
"Microsoft has removed a large body of tried and tested code and replaced it with freshly written code, complete with new corner cases and defects," the researchers wrote in the report, scheduled for publication Tuesday. "This may provide for a more stable networking stack in the long term, but stability will suffer in the short term."
It is necessary to mention here that Symantec is suing Microsoft over Vista. When asked for a response to the researchers' findings, Microsoft called them premature.
Wendy McCaw, newsmaker
Posted by Kristi Heim at 10:33 AM
I have to wonder what Craig McCaw must think when he hears about the escapades of his ex-wife, Wendy McCaw, whom he fought in court in 1997 over a fortune estimated at $1.3 billion in the largest divorce case ever in Washington state.
In case you missed it, the New York Times has a fascinating story about a staff revolt at the Santa Barbara News-Press, which Wendy McCaw owns. She bought the paper for $100 million in 2000 with proceeds from the McCaw cellular empire, once the nation's largest cellphone company. Two years later, an arbitrator ordered McCaw to pay her ex-boyfriend about $15 million.
No wonder Santa Barbara is a good setting for soap operas.
Jobster.com version 2.0
Posted by Tricia Duryee at 4:54 PM
Jobster.com has re-launched its Web site, turning its corporate site into a destination for job seekers.
The relaunched site, which went live Thursday, provides a big search bar at the top, where users can type in a position and a location. The results are pulled from numerous sites, including Monster.com, Craigslist and others.
But Jason Goldberg, Jobster's founder and chief executive, said it's much more than just a static page of search results. What job seekers will get is a MySpace-like or LinkedIn like experience. Employees at companies will be able to enter their thoughts and feelings about their employer on pages with their profile.
"We coupled results with user-generated content to give a feeling what ti's like to work there. It's a more human experience," he said.
The questions range from everything on what type of music do you listen to to what you can walk to from your office and what you can see from your desk.
VC fundraising heats up
Posted by Tricia Duryee at 4:21 PM
Venture capital fundraising broke new records in the second quarter, according to a report by Thomson Financial and the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA).
In fact, fundraising in both the venture capital and buyout classes of private equity reached new levels. During the quarter, 50 venture funds raised $11.2 billion, the highest level since the 2001, and 35 buyout and mezzanine funds raised $30.8 billion.
Several large funds in both buyout asset classes drove the unusually high level, according to the report.
Oak Investment Partners XII raised $2.56 billion, the largest venture capital fund ever raised. New Enterprise Associates 12 raised $2.25 billion. On the buyout side, Texas Pacific Group's TPG Partners V raised $14 billion.
"While this quarter's venture capital fundraising explosion is largely driven by a few players, we cannot pretend that this isn't an incredible amount of money to invest," said Mark Heesen, the NVCA's president. "It reflects a philosophy that companies need more money and a longer runway to go public today and these larger funds are going to support these enterprises from their infancy until their exit, which they hope in many cases is an IPO."
We'll find out early next week how this fundraising affected investing in companies.
Microsoft acquires Softricity
Posted by Kim Peterson at 10:55 AM
Microsoft said today it has completed its acquisition of Softricity, a Boston company whose software is designed to make it easier for large companies to manage programs for Windows. The companies did not disclose any financial terms of the deal.
The acquisition was initially announced on May 22. Softricity is now a wholly owned subsidiary of Microsoft.
Better chance of being Bill than Tiger
Posted by Benjamin J. Romano at 10:39 AM
Microsoft has gathered some 350 computer science professors and faculty today from six continents to showcase its research and talk big-picture about the state of the industry.
During the opening plenary session, the discussion covered how to get more students excited about computer science over careers in entertainment or sports, for example.
One suggestion was to point out the likelihood of failure in more glamorous pursuits.
Microsoft Chief Research and Strategy Officer Craig Mundie offered this observation, perhaps with tongue slightly in cheek:
"Kids have genetically a better chance of growing up and being Bill Gates than growing up and being Tiger Woods. It's quite amazing. We should probably publish these statistics."
Microsoft's "Google Compete" strategy
Posted by Kim Peterson at 10:37 AM
Think Microsoft has forgotten about Kai-Fu Lee, the executive who jumped ship to lead Google China? From the looks of this job advertisement, Microsoft has developed a broad strategy for China known as "Google Compete." It might also be known as the "whatever Kai-Fu is doing, we can do better" initiative.
This role manages all competitive escalations relating to Google and serves as the local/regional spokesperson for Google Compete PR and AR. The role is responsible for local/regional competitive intelligence and for maintaining a close relationship to the Corp Google Compete team.
Lost in Seattle finds new village
Posted by Kristi Heim at 6:30 AM
When Mike Safoutin first arrived in Seattle, he was fascinated by all the activities going on in the city. The trouble was, he couldn't find a way to keep track of it all.
Now, several years and a University of Washington Ph.D. later, Safoutin has started a Web site modeled after an interactive TV guide, but with local events and places instead of channels. LiveVillage, which makes its official debut Aug. 15, is a searchable map of the city that helps people find out what's happening at any location and at any given time. A preview of the service went up on the site this morning. Safoutin, who runs the University District software start-up Villageware, said his mission is to "create a live, changing virtual model of the place where you live."
He's already mapped out 100 square miles of Seattle, including 10,966 shops, 18,207 buildings and 92,322 dwellings, as part of his Lost in Seattle project. With LiveVillage, Safoutin takes digital mapping much further with software that continuallly updates the objects on the map. Businesses appear red when closed and green when open, for example. New icons pop up when events are happening now or in the near future.
Alan Eustace, Google's vice president of engineering, said recently that he would like to search for a class and be able to find a Web page with information on what is happening here and now. It sounds like Safoutin has brought the technology at least part of the way there.
City of Seattle reveals broadband list
Posted by Tricia Duryee at 5:33 PM
Today the City of Seattle released a list of the companies that showed interest in helping to build a fiber network to individual homes and provide high bandwidth to deliver voice, video and data services. The city had put out a request to gather the information in May.
Of note are the local companies Kirkland-based Clearwire, which provides wireless broadband, and Vulcan, which is Paul Allen's investment company.
Here's the full list:
CableRunner North America
Communication Technology Services
Fujitsu Network Communications
Kingston Cole & Associates
Science Applications International Corp.
Tellabs North America
For more information, check out the report a taskforce completed that ultimately recommended the city pursue developing a fiber network to the home.
Fightin' words, or bettin' words at least, for Gates
Posted by Kim Peterson at 11:33 AM
Wil Shipley, the chief executive of Seattle-based Mac developer Delicious Monster, posts an open letter to Bill Gates betting him $10,000 that Vista won't ship by January. Gates recently said there was an 80 percent chance that Microsoft's next operating system would be ready by then.
Shipley posts on his blog:
Because you know that, if you're lucky, in January you're going to squirm and weasel and release a "limited version" that you "recommend" only for, uh, say, professional IT guys who only have one eye, and suicide kings. Then, when you get a bunch of press on how crappy that version of Vista is, you'll quietly cut more and more features from it until you end up with the "home" version, which will look mysteriously like XP with some new paint.
But what do I know? You're the billionaire, I'm just some dude with a blog and a fistful of design awards.
Bellevue startup eyes open source
Posted by Kim Peterson at 3:27 PM
EWeek.com has a story out today about a startup in Bellevue that aims to provide information about open-source projects. The idea is to help people figure out the best open-source software for their needs, the article says.
And get this: The company, called Ohloh, was started by former Microsoft executives.
Ohloh isn't exactly new. The company's Web site said it was founded in 2004 as a way to "provide more visibility into software development." EWeek says its founders are Scott Collison, a former director of platform strategy at Microsoft, and Jason Allen, who previously managed XML Web services at the company.
Clearwire sues Bay Area college
Posted by Tricia Duryee at 11:53 AM
Clearwire is suing Peralta Community College in Oakland to get the college to comply with a 2005 agreement that would allow the Kirkland-based company to roll out its wireless broadband services in the Bay Area.
Clearwire -- which already is providing wireless broadband as a precursor to WiMax in 27 U.S. markets -- needs the spectrum. It generally relies on spectrum leased from colleges and other institutions, or in some cases buys it.
The suit, filed June 16, says the lease is key to providing a nationwide service because currently, it believes that all the spectrum in the greater San Francisco area is subject to long-term leases. Clearwire says, in court documents, that Peralta holds two of the five groups of channels available. Clearwire has an agreement to use one.
"The lease for the Defendant's spectrum represents the entirety of the spectrum rights held by [Clearwire] in the Bay Area and, thus, the only capacity currently available to further its business goal of rolling out its advanced wireless service product in Oakland and the surrounding area."
Clearwire further notes that it believes that the remainder of the spectrum is owned by its primary competitor.
"The loss of the spectrum will prevent [Clearwire] from rolling out its advanced wireless product in the Oakland market. Exclusion from this key metropolitan market would further adversely affect [Clearwire's] ability to build out a 'nationwide' service."
The dispute started in April when Peralta Community College sent Clearwire a letter saying that it was terminating its agreement. Peralta's letter said it wanted to terminate the agreement because Clearwire had failed to provide key equipment or a major cash contribution of $250,000 as requested earlier.
Hard to say what will happen, but it seems clear that the Bay Area won't be getting service until this is resolved.
T-Mobile ticks off minute tracker
Posted by Tricia Duryee at 11:33 AM
Bellevue-based MinuteWatcher, a service that helps customers track how many minutes they are using, said that since June 19 T-Mobile USA has been blocking the service.
The company's Web site says, "Denying access prevents MinuteWatcher from informing T-Mobile customers about their latest cell phone use patterns. No contact means no service."
It also said T-Mobile has changed conditions in its policy and taken technical measures to prevent MinuteWatcher from providing service to T-Mobile subscribers.
A T-Mobile spokesperson said yesterday the company was checking into whether its relationship with MinuteWatcher had changed. He said there are three ways for customers to check their minute balance: They can send a text message, call customer care, or log in via the Internet.
MinuteWatcher contends those three methods are not user friendly. Its service sends an email to the customer once or twice a week that estimates the usage at the end of the billing cycle.
Startups love Amazon's S3 service
Posted by Kim Peterson at 10:49 AM
Om Malik has a good writeup on how startups are loving Amazon.com's S3 Web storage service. Users can store large amounts of information on the Web, which makes it accessible from anywhere, and Amazon charges 15 cents per gigabyte of storage per month and 20 cents per gigabyte of data transferred.
Why the love? Money, of course:
Online photo sharing company SmugMug CEO Don MacAskill seems to be one happy customer, with a good reason. He was facing a hefty tab for storage -- Smug Mug is adding about ten terabytes worth of photos every month and claims he saved almost $500,000 in storage expenses. His monthly tab just in storage is around $1,500.
ZymoGenetics tests IL-21 as combo with Rituxan
Posted by Luke Timmerman at 3:51 PM
ZymoGenetics said today it has started a clinical trial of Interleukin-21 along with Rituxan, as a combination therapy against non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
Combination cancer drugs are somewhat in vogue as a way companies can show the FDA their treatments offer an edge in efficacy. If it works, the combination is bound to give health insurers headaches -- Rituxan alone typically costs more than $14,000 per patient in a usual four-week course, according to Mosby's Drug Consult. Adding another complex, genetically engineered protein like IL-21 would surely dial up the price.
For its part, ZymoGenetics is still a long way from delivering IL-21 to the market, much less driving a hard bargain with insurers over price. It is starting the early-stage trial based on some intriguing results it saw in mice.
The company said in December at the American Society of Hematology's annual meeting that 70 percent of mice on the Interleukin-21 and Rituxan combo survived at least three months with aggressive lymphoma, compared to 10 percent of mice on the same dose of Rituxan alone.
ZymoGenetics thinks that the combination might work because IL-21's mechanism of action is complementary to Rituxan's. IL-21 is an engineered protein that stimulates two types of immune system cells, Killer T cells, and Natural Killer cells. It is believed those cells could essentially pile on, battering tumors while Rituxan does its job of latching onto the tumor cells, and recruiting other immune system cells to attack.
ZymoGenetics' chief scientific officer Doug Williams said the company is focused on how IL-21's mechanism of action complements Rituxan, not how the U.S. health system might pay for such a mix. "If you provide a marginal benefit, you might get some pushback (from insurers)," Williams said. "But if you could bring considerable improvement, then you've got an argument that can be made to justify whatever the price may be."
If the combo doesn't work, ZymoGenetics could keep trying IL-21 as a single agent in other diseases, like kidney cancer and melanoma, where trials already are underway. Or, Williams said, it could test IL-21 in some other combination with Nexavar or Sutent, two new drugs for kidney cancer.
Then again, those drugs aren't cheap either, at $7,800 for a 28-day supply of Sutent, and $5,400 for a 30-day supply of Nexavar, according to Mosby's.
Of course, if IL-21 can extend lives without any extra help, ZymoGenetics and insurers would both be happier.
Microsoft and Yahoo hold IM hands
Posted by Kim Peterson at 3:02 PM
Microsoft and Yahoo! said last October they would make their instant messaging programs work together by June of 2006. It's a little late, but the companies today began rolling out this feature to users on a test basis, and said a broader implementation will take place over the next few months.
Combined, the two instant messaging communities have nearly 350 million accounts, the companies said. Users must have the new Windows Live Messenger program, which came out on June 19.
This is something of a watershed moment for IM interoperability. The technology to allow IM programs to work together has been there for years, as evidenced by programs like Trillian. But for a host of reasons, the Internet giants were loathe to break down these communication barriers on their own.
WPC: Vista, Office slips matter not to partners
Posted by Benjamin J. Romano at 2:53 PM
I spent some time today talking with Microsoft partners about whether the delays in Windows Vista and Office 2007 matter to them. Here's today's story on the subject for background.
The answer: no.
The overwhelming response I got was the delays don't matter much at all. Perhaps not surprising, given this is a Microsoft conference for partners, who are essentially the company's sales force. However, I imagine that with some 640,000 global partners, somebody is getting irked by this.
The comments here in Boston were well summed by Bill Breslin, board president of the U.S. chapter of the International Association of Microsoft Certified Professionals.
"When you buy-in to the Microsoft relationship, you accept them with their blemishes and when they have their halos on," Breslin said, adding that "a couple blemishes are part of any relationship."
At Insource Technology, the 60-person Houston IT consulting company where Breslin is sales director, the delay by perhaps three months of Office 2007 is no big deal, even though they're "heavily committed" to the product's launch. He said Insource has customers using the Beta version, and the company is providing feedback to Microsoft on the performance of the software.
"They're getting some great feedback and they want to make sure they get all of those issues resolved before they go to the production phase. There's been many times that companies get hurt by hitting production when they're not ready just to hit a date, only to let the partners and the users down on the other end," Breslin said.
Same goes for Vista, which his company also works with.
"Both of those products are going to be bread and butter for us for the next couple of years, and it's going to be tasty," he said.
Denzel Washington as Master Chief?
Posted by Kim Peterson at 2:07 PM
Is Denzel Washington going sci-fi? Some sites are reporting that the Oscar winner is in talks for the role of Master Chief in the upcoming movie based on Microsoft's "Halo" video game series. The Associated Press recently reported that Washington has been talking with Peter Jackson, the movie's executive producer, about working together on a film that Washington wants to direct.
NAM Y HUH / AP
To get you in the mood for Denzel-as-Master-Chief, here are some quotes from "Training Day" that could be recycled for "Halo:"
"Somebody drop this fool for me."
"You ain't never killed nobody before have ya? It ain't like steppin' on ants, Jake. Takes a man to kill, you man enough to kill, Jake?"
"To protect the sheep you gotta catch the wolf, and it takes a wolf to catch a wolf."
"Sometimes you gotta have a little dirt on you for anybody to trust you."
"Boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. Look at that. Sexy ain't it?"
Another day, another acquisition
Posted by Kim Peterson at 1:56 PM
Today marks the third acquisition announcement in Puget Sound in three days. This one takes us to Bothell, where AMS Services, a software maker for the insurance industry, said it has acquired BCF Technology, a North Carolina company providing software and services in the same field.
The two companies had worked together for years before the acquisition, and said in a statement that the deal was "the next logical step." The companies would not release financial terms of the purchase, nor disclose the number of employees at BCF. AMS Services has about 800 employees.
BCF employees will not be relocating to Bothell, and there will be no layoffs as a result of the acquisition, the companies said. The deal closed on July 7.
Study: More podcast fans than bloggers
Posted by Kim Peterson at 12:56 PM
Here's some news that Seattle-based Melodeo and Pluggd may be interested in: Nielsen//NetRatings said that 6.6 percent of the U.S. adult online population, or 9.2 million Web users, have recently downloaded an audio podcast, and that 4.0 percent, or 5.6 million Web users, have recently downloaded a video podcast.
That doesn't sound like a whole lot, but researchers said the numbers are stronger than the percentage of the online population that publishes blogs (4.8 percent) and tries online dating (3.9 percent).
Perhaps not surprisingly, people who create podcasts are also Mac fans, and are generally three times more likely than the average Web user to use Apple's Safari browser. In fact, Macworld.com is the top content site visited by audio podcasters. And for video podcasters? It's, ahem, StarTrek.com.
A fine day for Microsoft
Posted by Kristi Heim at 11:42 AM
The European Commission imposed a fine of $357 million on Microsoft today in connection with its 2004 ruling that the company broke European antitrust law. Today the Commission cited Microsoft's continuing failure to comply with its order to provide technical documentation to allow non-Microsoft servers to interoperate with Windows PCs and servers.
"I don't buy Microsoft's line that they didn't know what was being asked of them because the March 2004 order is absolutely crystal clear," Neelie Kroes, the Commission's top antitrust official, said today at a press conference in Brussels, according to Cnet. "And in order to increase the incentive for Microsoft to comply, the Commission has decided the ceiling for potential fines will be raised."
Interesting quote from Kroes, a Dutch politician who faced some criticism for her ties to business when she was first appointed as the Commission's antitrust watchdog two years ago. The Commission already fined Microsoft $613 million in 2004, and today Kroes threatened fines of $3.82 million per day for noncompliance, starting July 31.
Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith said the fine is not appropriate "given the lack of clarity in the Commission's original decision and our good-faith efforts over the past two years." He said Microsoft will appeal, a process that could take two years.
Jupiter Research analyst Joe Wilcox said this is one issue that will be very difficult for Microsoft and the EC to resolve.
Goldman Sachs dismissed the news as "not the worse case scenario." Indeed, just for a sense of scale, today's fine is only about 12 percent of Microsoft's $2.98 billion third-quarter profit.
Helping Microvision board count its coins
Posted by Kristi Heim at 10:51 AM
Brian Turner, chief financial officer of Coinstar, became the newest board member at Microvision, the company said today. Turner, 46, has been at Coinstar since 2003. The Bellevue company makes coin-counting machines. Before that Turner was CFO, treasurer and vice president of operations at RealNetworks. Microvision, which makes light-scanning technologies, has been reshuffling its board this year and bringing in new members from outside the company as part of an effort to turn around its finances and stem losses that have been as high as $7 million a quarter. Last month it closed a public stock offering, raising $23.5 million.
New NYT offering tilts towards Firefox
Posted by Benjamin J. Romano at 4:43 PM
Microsoft and The New York Times looked pretty cozy this spring when they announced that the venerable newspaper would be the first star of a new on-screen reading application built for Windows Vista. The Times Reader was introduced at the American Society of Newspaper Editors meeting in Seattle, complete with some friendly banter between Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates and Times Publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr.
Now comes another offering from The New York Times -- My Times, a customizable news page that "works best on Firefox for Windows and the Mac," The Times said in an email today, referring to the Web browser that is competing with Microsoft's dominant Internet Explorer. The email invited a limited number of readers to test drive the new service.
My Times "also works on Internet Explorer for Windows," the invitation noted.
Gates honored at Tech Museum
Posted by Kristi Heim at 3:29 PM
Bill Gates was chosen to receive a humanitarian award by The Tech Museum of Innovation in Silicon Valley, writes Therese Poletti.
Microsoft's founder will be given the 2006 James C. Morgan Global Humanitarian Award for his philanthropy and technology benefiting humanity. The award, named after the former CEO of Applied Materials, honors "an individual or organization whose broad vision and leadership on a global scale are helping society find solutions to some of humanity's greatest challenges," the museum said. A committee chose Gates as this year's honoree a couple months ago. That was before Gates said he would be shifting out of his role at Microsoft in two years to focus on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and before Warren Buffett's decision to donate more than $30 billion of his own fortune to that cause.
A Microsoft spokesman said Gates plans to attend the award ceremony Nov. 15 in San Jose.
Tattle on your boss for money
Posted by Kristi Heim at 2:20 PM
The Business Software Association, which is now touting itself as a "watchdog group," is offering to pay employees cash to turn in their employers for using pirated software.
The industry organization, which includes tech giants Microsoft, Adobe, Apple and others, sent out a Wild West-style reward poster yesterday hinting at why it is "handing out cash." Today it formally announced payments from a "Rewards Program" that encourages individuals to report infringements in their current or former workplaces.
BSA said it gave $15,000 cash to three people for reports of software piracy that led to investigations and settlements. All three, including an IT support employee and a customer service representative, reported on their companies after leaving them. The BSA didn't say whether it had job openings for anyone fired after tattling.
Posted by Benjamin J. Romano at 2:16 PM
I missed this because I was in an interview, but word is Doug Burgum, a senior vice president in Microsoft's Business Division, passed out beer during his afternoon keynote address at the Worldwide Partner Conference here in Boston. Now there's an innovative way to draw a crowd at a conference... enough with the free tote bags and Beta 2 copies of Windows Vista.
"It was the best keynote ever," said one reporter who attended.
Synapse CS makes a buy
Posted by Kim Peterson at 1:46 PM
Seattle-based Synapse Corporate Solutions said today it has acquired Arestia Design Studios, a branding, Web development and print media design company in Seattle. The two companies have worked together very closely in the past, Synapse said. Financial terms of the deal weren't announced.
Synapse sells software for small and medium-sized businesses. I wrote a short profile of the company in May.
Starbucks goes mobile for summer
Posted by Tricia Duryee at 1:40 PM
To celebrate summer, Starbucks is hosting a scavenger hunt, and it's not your average cup of Joe.
The game, called Starbucks Summer Pursuit, is described by the company as a "fun text messaging trivia game." Each week, Starbucks will text participants three summer-themed clues, to which they can respond to text or picture messaging.
The photo part, Starbucks says, is what "the techies call...intelligent image recognition."
If you rack up enough answers, you have a chance to play the Ultimate Scavenger Hunt in New York City and compete for a trip to Costa Rica.
To register go here.
UIEvolution goes after IPTV
Posted by Tricia Duryee at 12:31 PM
No wonder Bellevue-based UIEvolution, a subsidiary of Japan-based Square Enix, is expanding the applications of its mobile phone platform to IPTV. (IPTV, for Internet Protocol Television, is digital TV delivered over a broadband connection, like fiber or DSL.)
Global IPTV subscriptions are expected to jump from two million to 34 million between 2005 and 2010, according to a report released by The Diffusion Group today.
In that time period, the number of North American IPTV households is also expected to near 14 million, with the U.S. accounting for nearly 80 percent of the subscriptions.
The last time I talked to UIEvolution President Chris Ruff, he gave me the lowdown on how it had been helping a company in Japan roll out a service that allows customers to download movies on demand. In the U.S., UIEvolution is trying to expand its image from being only a mobile phone software platform.
"In the U.S., we are trying to begin to tell the UIEvolution story around [Video on Demand] and cable set-top boxes," Ruff said.
Ruff says he sees a lot of similarities between mobile and IPTV. The company is focused on making a really easy-to-use interface so that people can scan through thousands of movie titles easily. On a mobile phone that's difficult because of the small screen and limited keypad. That's also true on TV. Although the screen is typically much larger, the keypad -- or remote control -- is still limiting.
Hands-on mobile to deliver ads, too.
Posted by Tricia Duryee at 12:18 PM
The concept of using advertising on cell phones to subsidize the cost of content seems to be picking up steam.
San Francisco-based Hands-On Mobile, formerly called Mforma and based in Bellevue, said that in addition to selling mobile games and content, it is starting an advertising division.
"Mobile is the next logical evolution in the way that companies will reach their target customers. Hands-on Mobile's Media and Advertising Division promises brands instant access to hundreds of millions of mobile customers throughout the world," said Jonathan Sacks, Hands-On Mobile's president and CEO.
The division will be headed by John Rousseau, the former president of the International Automotive Group at PRIMEDIA.
Hands-On said the advertisements can come in many forms -- text message alerts, promotions, video, photo sharing, instant messaging, polling and audio. It said it can also offer its mobile instant messaging product, to do alerts, promotions, and mobile coupons.
The first time I reported that mobile advertising was on the cusp of becoming a reality was at the annual cell phone convention CTIA in April.
At the event, Seattle-based Medio Systems said it acquired Seattle-based WebRelevance, a company specializing in matching advertisements with content on Web pages. Medio wanted WebRelevance's expertise on Internet advertising to apply to mobile.
And, Bellevue-based Action Engine and Redmond-based MSNBC.com announced they created a free application that users download to their phones to watch TV and view news. The application is free because it is subsidized by advertising.
Don't worry, though -- the industry is still far away from requiring us to watch a commercial before we can make a phone call.
Vista, Windows 98 and Zune
Posted by Kim Peterson at 11:39 AM
Bill Gates is a glass-half-full kind of guy, saying there's an 80 percent chance Vista will be ready by January. Of course, you could look at that as a 20 percent chance the operating system will be delayed yet again....
If you use Windows 98, it just might be time to move on.
The latest rumor is that the company's upcoming media player will be called the Zune. No confirmation from Microsoft, of course, but it appears that a company in Spain owns the domain name for Zune.com. (Nothing on that page, though). If that is the name, expect that Microsoft will have focus-groupped the thing for months in countries around the world. The company underwent similar painstaking research for every aspect of the Xbox 360.
In not-so-related news, Google is looking to build a research center in Michigan that could have as many as 1,000 employees.
Shopping engine seeks video product reviews
Posted by Monica Soto at 11:29 AM
Shopping search engine ShopWiki wants to build up its library of Video Product Reviews and plans to pay users to do it.
The company is offering $50 for the first 500 product reviews on video that are submitted and approved by the company.
The reviews should feature an individual product (a Blackberry), a direct comparison of two products (Blackberry vs. Treo), or a category roundup (all Smartphones on the market).
We like the thorough review of the Urban Decay Las Chicas Face Case.
Ignition merges 3 of a kind
Posted by Tricia Duryee at 11:15 AM
Bellevue-based Ignition Partners announced today that it has created a new company by merging three wireless broadband companies that provide service to businesses.
The new company will be called Sparkplug and is a combination of Sparkplug in Chicago, Prairie iNet in Des Moines and Telespectra in Phoenix. It will be led by Ignition Partners' Bill Malloy, who will be CEO, and Steve Hooper, as chairman.
Sparkplug, using technology from Motorola, will offer wireless business broadband services in the Midwest and the Southwest.
"Our business customers are moving more data than ever. They demand scaleable high-speed connections that are affordable, reliable and quick to provision, plus come with responsive customer service," Malloy said. "All three companies deliver on this today, and that's why businesses are choosing us. Through the merger we are announcing today, the new company is well-positioned to meet these needs for more businesses in existing or new markets."
In June, Ignition gathered an additional $80 million to support acquisitions. That makes its current venture fund about $400 million.
WPC: Gratitude in the era of Sarbanes-Oxley
Posted by Benjamin J. Romano at 10:34 AM
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer thanked a huge audience of the company's partners today and at the same time subtly cast a positive light on financial results for the fourth quarter of its 2006 fiscal year, scheduled for release next Thursday.
"(P)erhaps most importantly, thank you for the business you drive on our behalf. ... We had a good year. We're waiting to close the books, so I'm not going to make any financial pronouncements. But I say a double thanks in advance of the announcement of our fiscal year results. I appreciate everything you've done for us. In the era of Sarbanes-Oxley, it gets a lot harder to have these discussions, but stand by for news."
WPC: A swarm of Microsoft partners
Posted by Benjamin J. Romano at 8:18 AM
I'm in Boston with a small army of Microsoft partners -- the businesses that actually sell most of the company's products -- for the annual Worldwide Partner Conference.
On the way into the city last night, I paid close attention to Boston's Big Dig, a huge tunnel project routing freeways under the city. (Seattle is contemplating a tunnel to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct.)
My cab driver informed me that as a result of the $14.6 billion Big Dig, we could travel from Logan International Airport to my hotel near Fenway Park and only hit two traffic lights. (It also added $6.50 in tolls to my cab fare.)
But the city awoke this morning to news that a woman was killed last night when a section of roof tiles in one of the tunnels collapsed. It has caused a traffic nightmare for the already congested city and delayed everything, including the conference, where some 7,000 Microsoft partners have gathered.
MSN's new reality baseball series
Posted by Kim Peterson at 4:27 PM
MSN is launching an online-only reality series Tuesday called "Fan Club: Reality Baseball," starring a real-life minor league team outside of Chicago called the Schaumburg Flyers.
In what is probably a first, the Flyers will let online viewers decide by vote the team's batting order, roster and pitching rotation. Team players will blog on the MSN Spaces platform. You can find the series here.
Well, it's not the strangest thing a minor-league team has done this season.
Grunge band gets clean
Posted by Kristi Heim at 2:23 PM
Rock band Pearl Jam has a Carbon Portfolio Strategy?
While the band has been involved in conservation efforts for years, now it's lending support to Northwest groups that focus on renewable energy. Today it announced $100,000 in funding for nine organizations, including the Cascade Land Conservancy, IslandWood learning center and the Bonneville Environmental Foundation.
"We hope to create new models for businesses like ours who are looking to invest in the future health of our planet and its delicate ecosphere," guitarist Stone Gossard said. "It is part of Pearl Jam's goal to encourage Northwest businesses and individuals to invest in these and other leading environmental organizations."
The band says it intends to burn pure biodiesel in all of its trucks and tour buses this year in an effort to offset its carbon emissions.
Select Selling makes a buy, changes name
Posted by Kim Peterson at 2:02 PM
Kirkland-based Select Selling announced today that it has acquired the majority of the assets of OnTarget, the "sales methodology" division of Oracle, and has combined the business with its own into a new entity called The TAS Group.
Financial terms of the deal, which closed June 30, weren't announced. On its Web site, The TAS Group says it provides consulting, software and training designed to help customers grow sales. Its European headquarters are in Dublin.
TAS Group spokesman George Cohen said the company has about 50 employees overall, with about a dozen in the Seattle area.
Oracle acquired OnTarget when it bought Siebel Systems in January, according to this IDG story. Siebel purchased OnTarget for around $259 million in 1999.
Monday's noteworthy news
Posted by Kim Peterson at 11:27 AM
Some local tech tidbits today:
Seattle Times columnist Brier Dudley has an interesting scoop about the digital music player Microsoft is developing.
The Hollywood Reporter notes that RealNetworks' share price is up 33 percent year over year.
It also marks a 108% gain in the past 52 weeks, making it the best-performing stock on The Hollywood Reporter/Bloomberg 50 Entertainment Stock Index in the past year.
The company's main areas of focus - music, video and games - are super hot now, the article states. But some analysts aren't too optimistic, saying that some well-heeled competitors are jumping into these areas as well and could dampen the company's growth prospects. RealNetworks' share price is down slightly today at last check.
Some heartening news for RealNetworks and competitors: Music download sales in the U.S. jumped by 77 percent in the first half of this year.
Speaking of Hollywood, local techie Chris Pirillo suggests that he may move the next Gnomedex conference there from Seattle, where it has been held for the last two years.
Online booksellers are worried that Amazon.com's changes to its feedback system will shift the blame to them for things that are out of their control, like postal service delays.
Finally, the European Union may raise the cap on its daily fines for Microsoft to $3.82 million from $2.55 million. Expect more developments on the issue this week.
Posted by Monica Soto at 5:20 PM
Twinkle, twinkle little star ... shoppers are confused by far.
Online retail giant Amazon.com plans to make changes to its new baby registry site after more than a thousand customers created registrie -- without adding a single item to their lists.
Amazon on Wednesday had introduced its new toy and baby stores online, just days after ending its long-term contract with Toyrus.com.
In a coup, the online retail giant partnered directly with manufacturers such as Fisher-Price and LeapFrog and distributors such as Target and eToys to double its previous selection.
The company originally boasted that thousands of people had created baby registries just days after its new baby store was launched, but opted to make the change after learning that more registries don't have any item.
"We'll be making a change to clarify this for folks," said Amazon spokeswoman Patty Smith.
Chris Chang of Edison, N.J., said he originally registered on Babiesrus.com before the split. His wife attempted to access the site from Amazon, unaware of the change, and created a registry after worrying that she had lost her original list. "We're not keeping that registry open," Chang said.
Tomoko Hall, of Austin, Texas, said she originally created a baby registry in a Babies R Us store, and never re-registered on Amazon.com. "I'm not ordering anything online," she said.
Of a random sampling of 125 registries, nearly 80 percent have not signed up for a single item.
Amazon's Smith said the company would enlarge the icon -- "Having trouble finding a registry" -- on the baby registry home page, so customers don't mistakenly register. "That said, we still have thousands of lists that do have products associated with them," Smith said.
Toys R Us won the right in February to sever its 10-year agreement with Amazon, following a protracted legal battle over the terms of the original contract. The ruling put into motion a 90-day separation agreement between the companies that ended July 1. Amazon has appealed the court's decision.
Meanwhile, Toys R Us relaunched its Toysrus.com and Babiesrus.com Web sites Saturday, with a new look and different e-commerce partner, King of Prussia, Pa.-based GSI Commerce.
Wikis go political
Posted by Tricia Duryee at 5:12 PM
Our esteemed political columnist David Postman reported todayhow people are using wikis to run political campaigns.
He adds some information on his blog about a Seattle company Wet Paint that has created wikiGop and wikiDemocrats.
In addition to that, anyone notice that local candidates are creating MySpace pages?
ArenaNet escapes the ax
Posted by Kim Peterson at 4:19 PM
Korean video game publisher NCsoft laid off 70 employees from its Austin, Texas, location and announced restructuring plans last month. That's about a 23 percent staff reduction, and has called into question the success of the company's "City of Heroes" and "City of Villains" games.
I've been wondering about any impact on Bellevue-based ArenaNet, which is a subsidiary of NCSoft. Spokeswoman Jenny Bendel said the reduction has had no effect on operations or personnel there. ArenaNet debuted the "Guild Wars" game last year and released a second game in the series in April.
MSFT execs report holdings
Posted by Benjamin J. Romano at 4:15 PM
It's the end of the week and just past the end of Microsoft's fiscal year... time for some SEC filings.
This afternoon, the company disclosed how much stock several of its top executives own in the company. Here's the numbers (both direct and indirect ownership) followed by their approximate value at today's closing price of $23.30 a share:
-- Craig Mundie, chief research and strategy officer, owned 14,944 worth $348,195.
-- Jim Allchin, co-president, platforms and services division, owned 20,695 worth $482,193.
-- Kevin Johnson, co-president platforms and services division, owned 21,734 worth $506,402.
-- Lisa Brummel, senior vice president, human resources, owned 39,583 worth $922,283.
-- Brad Smith, senior vice president, general counsel, corporate secretary, legal and corporate affairs, owned 56,996 worth $1.3 million.
-- Bob Muglia, senior vice president, server and tools business, owned 218,416 worth $5.1 million.
-- Mich Matthews, senior vice president, central marketing group, owned 551,410 worth $12.8 million.
-- Robbie Bach, president, entertainment and devices division, owned 596,730 worth $13.9 million.
-- Doug Burgum, senior vice president, business solutions group, owned 606,352 worth $14.1 million.
Who's No. 2 in digital music players?
Posted by Kim Peterson at 1:37 PM
If you removed the iPod from the picture, what's the next-best selling digital music player? What company ranks second in market share behind Apple Computer?
It's not Sony or Creative. According to the NPD research group, data storage company Sandisk had the second largest chunk of the U.S. digital music player market in May, with a 10.1 percent share. Apple's iPod had a 74.3 percent share. And Creative was in third place with a 4.2 percent share.
Sandisk's best-selling player that month was the Sansa M230, which sells for $49 at Buy.com, according to NPD. The M230 has 512 MB of storage -- the same amount as the $69 iPod Shuffle. Unlike the Shuffle, the Sensa has an LCD screen, an FM tuner and a voice recorder.
Digital music players have hit mainstream status, according to research firm Nielsen//NetRatings. The company reports that 24 percent of online adults currently own a digital music player, and that 9.3 percent of online adults have bought one in the last 12 months.
Junxion rocks out to Styx
Posted by Tricia Duryee at 5:47 PM
Everyone wants something, but I've never heard of a request like this.
Styx, the platinum-selling classic rock band, made a simple request in its blog July 1. It said it was looking for a Junxion Box JB-110E .
No, it's not a new guitar, not a drum kit, or even the intersection between the two.
The Junxion Box is a product of Seattle-based Junxion. You plug a cellular broadband data card into it, and the box broadcasts a Wi-Fi signal.
Why does Styx want one of these?
Here's the response, typos and all:
"Some of these gigs in the middle of a race-track or wheverever they can put a stage don't have internet connections. No connection, no styxcrew cameras. Yes, I know it's hard to imagine a world without the cameras, but it happens from time-to-time. This box will also allow a connection when vehicles (bus) are moving since it is cellular technology. Ahh yes ... a connection on a 20 hour bus ride...."
Perhaps they'll get their wish when they play at Chateau Ste. Michelle Aug. 23.
Portable wireless on the way
Posted by Tricia Duryee at 5:26 PM
Legendary wireless entrepreneur Craig McCaw is at it again with his new venture Kirkland-based Clearwire.
Nothing more solidifies that notion than Wednesday's announcement that the company would receive $900 million from Intel and Motorola. As part of that deal, Clearwire also sold its equipment subsidiary for an unknown sum. In total now, the company has raised more than $2 billion.
But what may be more interesting to the average Joe -- and was only mentioned in one sentence in today's story -- was that the Clearwire service is launching soon in Seattle.
The company is rolling out an early version of WiMax, which blankets large geographies with wireless broadband service similarly to how Wi-Fi covers a Starbucks. It is an alternative to DSL and cable. It's not mobile, but if you don't mind lugging around a textbook-sized modem with you, it is portable.
Ben Wolff, who shares the title of CEO with McCaw, wouldn't say the exact date of the Clearwire launch, but he did confirm it would be coming up shortly. The service will not only cover the city, but stretch from Everett to Tacoma.
Prices vary, but it looks like right now, for basic service, it costs about $20 a month, marked down from $30 a month, for a year's contract. It's hard to get more details, but you can check out the company here..
Google as a verb: It's official
Posted by Kim Peterson at 10:57 AM
Google is now officially a verb. Oxford English Dictionary added the word in verb form June 15, so you can legitimately say you've "Googled" something.
Techdirt wonders if this move is going to move Google closer to losing the trademark on its brand name.
Microsoft launches OpenDocument Format project
Posted by Benjamin J. Romano at 9:48 AM
Microsoft unveiled a project to translate documents created in its popular word processing, spreadsheet and presentation programs into a competitive open-source file format.
The Open XML Translator project is "in response to government requests for interoperability" with OpenDocument Format, Microsoft said in a news release issued late Wednesday.
ODF, developed by Oasis, a nonprofit group pushing for e-business standards, has the backing of Microsoft competitors, including IBM and Sun Microsystems.
Microsoft said the translator is being developed as open-source software. Microsoft is aiming to spread access to its Open XML file format, which will be part of the forthcoming Office 2007 release, while also giving people the choice to use the ODF format, among others.
An early version of the translator to be added to Word 2007 was posted today at SourceForge, an open source software development Web site. The Word tool is scheduled to be complete and available by the end of the year, with translators for Excel and PowerPoint due in 2007. Microsoft also plans to make it compatible with older versions of Office.
Posted by Kim Peterson at 3:29 PM
Seattle-based ZAAZ announced today that it has been acquired by Wunderman, a New York division of advertising and marketing companies under the umbrella of the London-based WPP Group.
ZAAZ's services include Web design, analysis, search marketing and optimization, and counts among its clients Microsoft, Qwest, Intel and Expedia.
According to this press release, ZAAZ reported $9.2 million in sales last year. Specific terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Amazon: Take that, Toys R Us!
Posted by Kim Peterson at 3:22 PM
Our colleague Monica Soto Ouchi reports that Amazon.com has launched its own toy and baby stores online. This comes just after the company ended a long relationship with Toysrus.com.
Toys R Us relaunched its new Toysrus.com and Babiesrus.com Web sites last week with another technology partner.
Nintendo sends a birthday gift to Bush
Posted by Kim Peterson at 3:02 PM
President Bush turns 60 tomorrow and Nintendo of America is honoring the occasion by sending him a DS Lite game player and a copy of the game "Brain Age." Nintendo reports that it delivered the gift to the White House but has no idea if Bush will actually see it.
The game will calculate your "brain age" by giving you a series of equations and other problems to solve. I would like to see what Bush's brain age adds up to.
Nintendo cites a U.S. Census Bureau report, which says that about 7,900 Americans will turn 60 each day in 2006.
Microsoft's not-so-secret iPod rival
Posted by Kim Peterson at 2:31 PM
Another week has gone by and that means it's time for another installment in the Microsoft-is-developing-an-iPod-rival news cycle.
Bloomberg gives more details today, citing anonymous sources in Hollywood and the music industry. Microsoft's new player will be out by Christmas, the report says, and will have wireless Internet capability. A Microsoft spokeswoman today would only characterize the story as speculation.
The wireless Internet connection probably won't mean you can surf the Web from the player, but it most likely would let you buy and download music directly to the device without having to use a computer. You might be able to see what songs are on other people's players. Perhaps you could even share songs or snippets of songs wirelessly, as long as the terms meet what will undoubtedly be very strict digitial rights restrictions on the device.
The article points out that the new device is being overseen by Robbie Bach and J Allard -- two key players in the development of the Xbox video game console. They have loads of experience with Microsoft going beyond its software roots to develop its own hardware.
HD-DVD seems to be picking up steam
Posted by Kim Peterson at 2:17 PM
It looks like the momentum on the Blu-ray/HD-DVD debate is swinging to the side of HD-DVD. That's the next-gen high-definition video format backed by Microsoft, among others. Microsoft is going to sell an HD-DVD player as an accessory to the Xbox 360 later this year. Blu-ray is chiefly Sony's baby, and a player will be included in every PlayStation 3, which is partly why the console's price is sky high.
It's fascinating to watch this issue play out. We're heading into yet another format war, and anyone who remembers Betamax might think twice before betting on one system or the other. Yes, it's a technology race, but perhaps more than that it's a marketing and promotional race. Still, I have yet to see any real push from either side convincing us that we absolutely can't live without Blu-ray or HD-DVD, even though Sony reportedly said it's planning a "slew of promotion" for Blu-ray. Maybe these formats need to spend a year or two in the early-adopter category.
Last month, the first Blu-ray player and compatible movies went on sale. Here's some of the latest buzz on the topic:
HD-DVD clearly outshines Blu-ray
Blu-ray Is Doomed to Lose DVD Format War
Early experiences with Blu-ray disappointing
Samsung's new Blu-ray DVD player is nifty, pricey
Blu-ray bows to small sales, little fanfare
Wireless auction on schedule
Posted by Tricia Duryee at 11:36 AM
Lost in the shuffle of news last week was an important ruling by the U.S. appeals court.
Reuters reported that the court refused to delay the August sale of valuable wireless airwaves despite concerns raised by some smaller carriers. Council Tree Communications and others had sought a stay to block the auction from starting until the court could rule on eligibility discounts.
The FCC is scheduled to begin the auction Aug. 9. The sale is estimated to raise $8 billion to $15 billion. The airwaves up for sale are good for rolling out broadband wireless services, like 3G, which provide DSL-like transmission rates.
A lot of heavy-hitters are expected to participate, including T-Mobile USA, the only major U.S. carrier who hasn't started to provide 3G. In fact, it was T-Mobile that asked the court not to delay the auction, saying there's too much at stake in the long-planned sale.
Others that could participate are Microsoft, TimeWarner, News Corp. and Kirkland-based Clearwire, which is headed by Craig McCaw.
The court ruling had to do with eligibility -- what companies would qualify for a discount of up to 25 percent. The deal is designed to encourage smaller companies to participate. However, some have struck partnerships with national carriers.
According to Reuters, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit said Council Tree and the other petitioners failed to establish that they would suffer irreparable harm without a delay, and other bidders have indicated a willingness to participate despite the new restrictions.
If you can understand FCC lingo, there's plenty more information about the auction here.
Show me the money!
Posted by Tricia Duryee at 11:22 AM
At a breakfast panel discussion at Fortune magazine's Brainstorm conference last week, VCs talked about the industries and regions where they are focusing most of their attention, according to a story on CNNMoney.com.
And there seemed to be a lot of local participation.
Gary Rieschel, the founder of Qiming Venture Capital Partners, started in part by Bellevue-based Ignition Partners to fund early-stage companies in China, said that medical technology firms and energy start-ups there are two areas that excite him the most.
The story also said the VCs and industry experts agreed that broadband wireless companies, as opposed to PC-focused Internet firms, seemed to hold the most promise for investors.
Mark Anderson, president of Strategic News Service, a tech newsletter out of Friday Harbor, was the one to comment on that. "The phone is now the center of innovation," he said.
Is a last-place finish possible for Sony?
Posted by Kim Peterson at 10:53 AM
GameDaily has an interesting opinion piece by David Cole of DFC Intelligence, an analyst covering the video gaming industry, on the challenges Sony faces with its PlayStation 3. The obvious worst case scenario, Cole writes, is that Sony finishes in last place in the next generation of console wars behind Microsoft and Nintendo. He goes on to describe how that could happen, and the fact that anyone is discussing that possibility is telling in itself for Sony.
That gets to the heart of the biggest concern with the PlayStation 3. Sony has done very little to justify why the system is worth a premium price for consumers that don't care about raw hardware performance and are not hard-core audio/visual consumers. Unfortunately we believe that represents over 90% of the consumers in the marketplace.
Sony will launch the PS3 in North America on Nov. 17 at a $499 and $599 price tag. See this story for more details.
Elsewhere in video game land, the first professional gaming league has signed a four-man "Halo 2" team to a $1 million contract. The team's captain is a 21-year-old from Michigan.
Microsoft in deal with Atos Origin
Posted by Benjamin J. Romano at 9:48 AM
Dutch IT services company Atos Origin said today it has entered a deal with Microsoft to develop and market its products based on several Microsoft offerings, including Windows Vista, Office 2007 and Windows Server "Longhorn".
One product that will fall under the agreement, which covers training, marketing and sales, is Atos Workplace Solutions. It is designed to manage operating system migration and outsourcing.
Atos, which does consulting, systems integration and managed operations, has 47,000 employees around the world.
WSA Web site hacked
Posted by Kim Peterson at 9:37 AM
Marketing guru Frank Catalano wrote in to report that the WSA's Web site was defaced over the weekend, and sure enough, when I checked it out this morning all I saw was a blank white page with the words "CyberLord WAS HERE."
Seems some other sites, like this one for Aeropacifico, have been hacked as well.