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December 29, 2006

A New Year's present for Clearwire

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 3:24 PM

With news today that AT&T got final government approval to purchase BellSouth, AP was nice enough to write a detailed report on how it may benefit consumers or other businesses.

One of the conditions of the merger was that AT&T was going to have to sell wireless broadband licenses held by BellSouth. The spectrum is good for rolling out WiMax, something both Sprint Nextel and Kirkland-based Clearwire pledge to do on a nationwide basis.

In January, I reported that BellSouth, which provides DSL service in the South, was interested in rolling out mobile WiMax in the markets were it held rights to spectrum. At the time, it was offering fixed wireless technology in six markets. Today, it is offering wireless broadband in parts of 15 cities in eight states.

The AP story surmised that Sprint Nextel would probably love to get its hands on the frequencies because it has committed to rolling out a WiMax network.

What the story didn't mention is that Clearwire may also want the spectrum, since it too, is rolling out a nationwide WiMax network and already has a proprietary network in more than 30 markets, including Seattle.

AP said there are no conditions to the sale, however, so BellSouth will likely sell it to the least-threatening buyer. Or, perhaps, sell to the buyer it has the closest ties to. That could be Clearwire, whose founder Craig McCaw also started McCaw Cellular Communications, which later became AT&T Wireless. Cingular Wireless, which bought AT&T Wireless in 2004, and is now owned entirely by AT&T.

Follow that?

If not, try and follow this: I'm not sure if either of them would even want the spectrum. I believe that BellSouth's spectrum holdings are in the 2.3 GHz band. Both Sprint Nextel and Clearwire own significant holdings in the 2.5 GHz band.

UPDATE: In an document filed with the FCC by AT&T, there's more information on this topic available, so I'd like to clarify the last statement about the two different bands. First, the document says that as a condition of the merger, BellSouth will assign or transfer all of the 2.5 GHz spectrum within one year of the merger closing date. Second, the document says this does not hold true for BellSouth's 2.3 GHz holdings. By July 21, 2010, AT&T/BellSouth will agree to offer service in the 2.3 GHz band to 25 percent of the population in the service area. In a nutshell, this means that the spectrum AT&T/BellSouth will be obligated to shed is very much of interest to Clearwire or Sprint, which both mainly own or lease 2.5 GHz spectrum. What I couldn't find in a quick search are details on how much BellSouth owns.

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Jobster's soap opera continues

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 10:33 AM

Alrighty, I feel obligated to blog about my own story today because it's about -- blogging.

Today, I wrote about Jobster and how it is entering a period of restructuring. However, there's not much to report yet -- the company is currently meeting to figure out how it wants to get to profitability in 2007.

Instead I wrote about how this story has been lifted, exaggerated, duplicated, passed along, or however you want to put it in the blogosphere. As I say in the story, Technorati tracked it as the third- most searched for term, right after Britney and before Youtube.

Today, it stands third after Miss Nevada and before Youtube. One might ask, how does a startup in Seattle with 145 employees rise to this level of attention? I guess the answer is a pretty active recruiting blogging community, which seems to be the biggest contributor to all of the gossip. But also, Jobster's CEO Jason Goldberg is perpetuating it himself by maintaining a blog of his own.

Is this the new way to run a business? Out in the open, and completely available to comment on?

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December 27, 2006

WSJ hosts Web 2.0 bubble debate

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano at 11:31 AM

Is it a another bubble? The debate rages on over whether the surge of Internet startup companies and the venture capital funding them -- the Web 2.0 phenom -- constitutes a bubble like the one in the late 1990s.

The Wall Street Journal today published a dialogue between two venture capitalists who made bets during the last go-round and are investing again today.

Todd Dagres of Spark Capital says there is a Web 2.0 bubble. One reason, he notes, is that many startup companies are copying existing business models and there's a low barrier to entry. "R&D in a Web 2.0 company = rummage & duplicate," he says. Ouch.

In the opposite corner is David Hornik of August Capital and author of VentureBlog. He notes that much less capital is flowing into Web 2.0 companies than the Internet startups of the late 1990s received. And venture capitalists get quick feedback on the success or failure of these upstarts. "VCs may lose their capital invested early in Web startups, but the amount of capital sunk into failed businesses will never snowball the way it did in the late 90s," he says.

Here's a link to the whole back-and-forth.

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Wireless predictions by Unstrung

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 11:22 AM

Unstrung, an online newsletter about the mobile industry, posted a discussion today on predictions for next year.

Surprisingly, I found quite a few local ties worth mentioning.

The first of 10 predictions was about Connexion, the inflight Wi-Fi service launched by Boeing in 2000. After the service was abandoned and shut down in August, there was a possibility of a new group, led by Lufthansa and Panasonic, were going to breathe new life into it. Unstrung says now that the group looks like it is delaying plans. Nevertheless, it said Wi-Fi should get off the ground, as Denver-based Aircell moves forward with plans after outbiding Verizon Wireless and other major carrier in a FCC spectrum auction last summer. (This doesn't sound like much of a prediction, since Unstrung says that AirCell will announce agreements to install services on commercial planes by the end of the first quarter of 2007).

Here are the other three so-called "predictions" that include local companies (and they aren't too far out there):

-- Kirkland-based Clearwire, Craig McCaw's new venture, will try to go public in the first two or three quarters of 2007 (Clearwire filed for an IPO a week before Christmas).

-- Unstrung said the second half of next year will see the beginnings of a power struggle over which carrier will be the first to offer mobile WiMax services in the U.S. (Duh. Both Sprint Nextel and Clearwire have said they will start to launch their first mobile WiMax markets in 2007).

-- Unstrung predicts that 2007 will be the year that the majority of U.S. carriers finally get hip to Wi-Fi and fixed mobile convergence. (That means that they will allow people to roam from the cellular network to a Wi-Fi network to get coverage in places that traditional networks don't reach. T-Mobile launched fixed mobile convergence in Seattle as a trial in October.

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Another crisis in Asia sends ripples outward

Posted by Kristi Heim at 10:42 AM

Here's yet another reminder of the vulnerability of our interconnected global economy and communications networks. If you're having trouble calling Southeast Asia today, it might be because yesterday's strong earthquake off Taiwan, which killed two people, also damaged undersea cables connecting the region and the rest of the world. One article called it "a collapse of the virtual world."

AT&T, the biggest U.S. phone company, said the 7.1 magnitude quake has caused Internet delays on traffic within Asia, and disruption to voice calls between the U.S. and much of the region, including Hong Kong, Japan and China. Chunghwa, Taiwan's biggest phone operator, said the cables could take two or three weeks to repair.

A tsunami alert after the quake was particularly haunting for the region, coming on the second anniversary of the Asian tsunami that killed more than 220,000 people in 2004, unleashed by a 9.1 magnitude quake off of Indonesia. Fortunately this one produced no large waves.

The main damage was virtual: stock traders' electronic information ground to a halt, and DHL's freight forwarding operation in Taipei was resorting to typewriters. As bizarre as that seems, it's an interesting point that in our digital age, having a few non-digital alternatives might be a wise policy.

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December 22, 2006

InfoSpace cuts mobile content further

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 11:20 AM

I wrote in today's paper that InfoSpace's Stephen Davis, president of mobile and online media, will leave Jan. 1 to pursue other career opportunities.

Here's some context, via links.

Davis joined the Bellevue company in November 2005 to manage InfoSpace's mobile entertainment business.

But since the company learned it will lose a major wireless customer next year, it's been cutting back on mobile-content initiatives to focus on its online and mobile infrastructure businesses. As part of the restructuring, it will also lay off about 250 of its 670 employees. The position Davis holds will not be filled, InfoSpace said.

The day before Davis's departure, InfoSpace said it appointed Bruce Easter as senior vice president and general counsel.

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Intrinsyc's new mobile-phone software

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 10:42 AM

Intrinsyc Software, a Vancouver-based company with major operations in Redmond, said today that it has completed the production release of a mobile phone operating system based on the Windows CE platform for low-cost consumer handsets.

The product, called Soleus, is important because many of the lower-end handsets are difficult to program for because there's so many different operating systems. By contrast, high-end phones that have operating systems, such as Windows Mobile 5.0 or Symbian, have a standard platform and are easier to write software for.

Soleus achieves this for low-end consumer phones without increasing costs.

"A key element of the Soleus platform is the flexibility and customization capability it brings to mobile phone manufacturers as they respond to industry pressures to deliver feature rich handsets to market faster," said Intrinsyc's CEO and Chairman Glenda Dorchak.

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December 21, 2006

Medical condition: "Mouse rage"

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 10:25 AM

Forget carpal tunnel, the new computer-induced ailment is called "Mouse Rage Syndrome."

I wish I were making this up.

But Information Week is reporting today that Social Issues Research Centre in the United Kingdom identified "Mouse Rage" as a new medical syndrome. Signs include: quickening of the heart, profuse sweating, and furious clicking and bashing of the mouse. In extreme cases, the ailment can be identified by loud screaming at video screens.

According to a study of 2,500 Web users, these symptoms affect all Internet users sooner or later. The study was released Tuesday.

The primary cause of Mouse Rage is "badly designed and hosted Web sites," according to the research center. That includes slow-loading pages, layouts that are difficult to navigate, pesky pop-ups and unnecessary ads, including banners. The most evil, however, is "site unavailability."

"The test results indicate that users want Google-style speed, function, and accuracy from all of the Web sites they visit, and they want it now," according to the SIRC report. "Unfortunately, many Web sites and their servers cannot deliver this."

So, make it your New Year's resolution to design your Web sites better.

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December 20, 2006

NetMotion gains big-customer win

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 11:57 AM

NetMotion Wireless, which has developed software that allows users to continue to work even when not connected to a wireless network, said today that Cingular Wireless will start to sell the product for Windows-based devices.

In addition to allowing people to work offline, the software also serves as a mobile virtual private network that provides additional security. The features could be particularly useful for law enforcement, fire personnel, paramedics and home healthcare nurses, the Cingular said.

"Cingular's new Mobility XE(tm) solution from NetMotion Wireless eliminates the risk of having applications interrupted and data lost, particularly when responding to emergency situations," said Laura Johnson, Cingular's senior director of enterprise solutions.

The software will be available through Cingular's direct sales organization, which serves 1,800 federal, state and local government agencies.

In June, NetMotion announced that it was buying Bethlehem, Pa.-based Padcom after the company had won a patent-infringement suit against NetMotion. NetMotion Wireless was spun off from WRQ in 2001.

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Glu Mobile files for IPO

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 11:38 AM

After the market for mobile video games flattened out a bit, sales are now on the rise. And, with that trend in place, Glu Mobile, which publishes such games as Monopoly and Sonic the Hedgehog, filed for an initial public offering today.

According to documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the San Mateo, Calif.-based company seeks to raise $92 million. It will trade under the ticker of "GLUU."

The company plans on using about $12.1 million to repay a loan, and will use the remaining proceeds for working capital and potential capital expenditures and acquisitions.

Following news of Glu's IPO filing, Seattle-based M:Metrics released some information on the mobile game market.

This is an opportune time for Glu to file, said M:Metrics, because the game market is in the midst of an upswing. It also said that Glu's Monopoly is the third-ranking mobile video game title, following EA Mobile's Tetris and Bejeweled titles.

M:Metrics reported that Glu gets about 10.8 percent of downloads, in second place behind EA Mobile, which has a marketshare of about 27 percent.

EA must have been a little jealous with the attention that Glu was getting today because it also put out a release.

The Los Angeles-based company, which trades under the ticker "ERTS," said two of its games -- Sudoku and Royal Solitaire -- are now available for download on "fifth-generation" iPods on the iTunes store.

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December 19, 2006

MSFT blows over $30, finishes today at $29.99

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano at 2:02 PM

In the midst of wind storms and a power outage at Microsoft's campus late last week, the company's stock did something it hasn't done since April 1, 2002: Closed above $30.

Microsoft shares have bumped against that "ceiling" a few times in the last four years, but the $30.07 close on Thursday was the first time they finished above the mark. They did it again on Friday, closing at $30.19, which tied the April 1, 2002 price. Shares fell to $29.89 on Monday, and finished today at $29.99 after flirting with another $30+ finish.

Breaking through that $30 mark, viewed by some as a psychological barrier, continued the run MSFT has been on since June 13, when it bottomed out at $21.51. As of today, it's up 39.4 percent since then.

Update: Bloomberg lists 41 analysts who cover Microsoft. Of those, 20 have price targets for the stock. The average target is $32.07, with a high of $35 (four analysts) and a low of $20 (one analyst, last updated April 28).

Word is there's another small storm heading for the region later in the week. We're not saying the weather has anything to do with the stock price, but we'll be watching closely, just in case.

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Zune firmware, software updates

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano at 1:21 PM

Microsoft has released an update to its Zune digital media software, making it compatible with the Windows Vista operating system.

Zune Insider has the details of the 22 MB download, which allegedly became available this morning. (The comments suggest some confusion over exactly what the update is and where to get it, however.) has details on a firmware update, too. And here's Mary Jo Foley's post on the matter.

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Opera browser available on Wii on Dec. 22

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano at 10:04 AM

Nintendo said in September that the Wii game console -- this holiday season's hot item -- would include a trial version of the Opera Web browser. Today, Nintendo and Opera announced that the browser will be available for free download beginning Friday. The announcement came from Nintendo in Europe, but it looks like Wii owners everywhere can download the browser.

Here's the news from Opera in comic form, a nice twist on the traditional press release.

From Nintendo's press release: "The final version of the Opera browser will be available at the end of March 2007, and will be free for all Wii owners to download through the end of June. After June 2007, the browser will be available for download in the Wii Shop Channel for 500 Wii Points."

Adding a browser to the Wii strengthens Nintendo's position in the living room. Opera, meanwhile, is pursuing a strategy to optimize its browser, which trails offerings from Microsoft and Mozilla, for use on set-top boxes, mobile and other devices.

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December 18, 2006

Microsoft powered back up

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano at 1:22 PM

A spokeswoman with Microsoft's PR firm said that all power to the main campus in Redmond has been restored. Two satellite offices in the Puget Sound area -- Eastpointe in Issaquah and Alstom in the Bellevue/Northup area -- are still without power.

All of the company's "mission critical functions" remained on line during the outage "due to a backup power system that executed without incident," the spokeswoman said.

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Best Blogs of 2006

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 11:27 AM

And, no, sadly Tech Tracks didn't make the cut....

But, here's an entire list of winners in categories such as Best Blog, Best Liberal Blog, Best Conservative Blog, Best Photo Blog, Best Asian Blog, etc.

The best blog was the "Daily Kos," written by 35-year-old Markos Moulitsas ZĂșniga, who ponders political topics.

Nowadays, the blog receives about 20 million unique visits a month, he claims.

How do you become such a popular blogger?

He offers tips:

So how does a site get listed? Be noticed. Make a stir. Don't regurgitate the contents of a news story, but provide perspective or additional insight. Be clever, funny, original. Get away from the default templates. Get away from Blogspot. Create your own identity. Your own domain. Have attitude. Be self-confident. Participate in the comment boards at dKos or MyDD or Atrios or any number of other sites (a great way to demonstrate your writing acumen). Participate in group weblogs like Stand Down or the Political State Report.

These are good tips to have as the number of new blogs being created (about 100,000 a day) slows. With fewer being started, perhaps it will be easier to grab attention?

Gartner is predicting that blogging will peak in the first half of next year when the number of active blogs will level out at around 100 million.

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Congratulations! You are a winner!

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 11:05 AM

Yes, you.

Time magazine -- in its infinite wisdom -- has granted the person of the year honor to YOU. Not Bill and Melinda Gates and Bono (2005), George W. Bush (2000 and 2004), The American Solider (2003), The Whistleblowers from FBI, Enron and Worldcom (2002), or Mayor of New York City Rudolph Giuliani (2001).

Time said: "You control the Information Age. Welcome to your world."

To be sure, there are individuals we could blame for the many painful and disturbing things that happened in 2006. The conflict in Iraq only got bloodier and more entrenched. A vicious skirmish erupted between Israel and Lebanon. A war dragged on in Sudan. A tin-pot dictator in North Korea got the Bomb, and the President of Iran wants to go nuclear, too. Meanwhile nobody fixed global warming, and Sony didn't make enough PlayStation3s.

"But look at 2006 through a different lens and you'll see another story, one that isn't about conflict or great men. It's a story about community and collaboration on a scale never seen before. It's about the cosmic compendium of knowledge Wikipedia and the million-channel people's network YouTube and the online metropolis MySpace. It's about the many wresting power from the few and helping one another for nothing and how that will not only change the world, but also change the way the world changes.

If Time believes that the Web 2.0 phenomenon is finally here, is it almost over?

In 1999, a year before the bottom dropped out of the dot-com rage, CEO Jeff Bezos was pronounced "person of the year."

Makes me wonder.

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Comcast still down

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 10:57 AM

On Sunday, Comcast said it had crews working around the clock to repair hundreds of downed cable lines.

The company said much of the work is left to be done in areas where the lights are off, such as Seattle, South King County, South Snohomish County, Westport, the Eastside, Mercer Island and areas of Pierce County.

The company said at least 700 downed cable lines throughout Western Washington are still left to repair.

In addition, Comcast reported long hold times at its two Western Washington call centers in Fife and Everett. Even with every available customer service representative working overtime and answering phones, the company has asked customers to be patient as it works as quickly as possible to restore service.

Comcast must wait for power to be restored before it fixes its cable or fiber optic lines.

UPDATE: Comcast said today that it will issue credits in this situation for those who have not had service because of the storm. However, every customer will need to call to receive credit because it will be based on how many days they were without power. Also, Comcast reported that they are experiencing heavy call volumes and therefore would ask if customers seeking refunds could call later in the week or next week.

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More companies enter movie download fray

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano at 10:42 AM

Another week, another company enters the movie downloading business. Today, the Financial Times reported that Sony will allow people to download movies to PCs and transfer them to its PSP portable gaming system. Here's coverage from Red Herring.

Also, Intel is in a deal in the UK to allow movie downloads to Windows Media Center PCs equipped with the company's Viiv chips. It's partnering with in the effort, another move in Intel's broader media strategy around its Viiv product line. See coverage from The Register. In 2005, Intel invested in Morgan Freeman's ClickStar, which aims to offer first-run video content via the Internet.

This space is getting crowded. Here's our background on efforts by Apple and Amazon to get in the game. Microsoft launched a movie download service this fall, too.

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December 15, 2006

P3-DX robot is not $40k

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano at 10:37 AM

Jeanne Dietsch of MobileRobots said several robotics bloggers have been chattering about a line in my robotics story earlier this week that suggested the price of the company's P3-DX is $40,000. Turns out, it's more like $4,000. The executive at Microsoft who told me the price of the robot was apparently wrong. (I placed a call to him today to check that he wasn't referring to something else, but I haven't heard back so far.) Sorry for the confusion.

Update: Both the Microsoft exec, Tandy Trower, and Dietsch said today that $4,000 is the base price for the P3-DX. Microsoft bought four of them outfitted with "advanced laser mapping and autonomous navigation software, laser bumpers, gyros, wireless, etc, etc for $76,000, or $19,000 each," Dietsch said, adding, "We did give them a reduced price, however. We didn't charge them for the Windows OS!"

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December 14, 2006

Pogue 'proves' Vista's not an OS X knock off

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano at 3:35 PM

David Pogue, The New York Times' technology columnist, weighed in with his review of Windows Vista today.

Pogue, a top technology tastemaker, accompanies his column with a short video in which he "proves" (tongue securely in cheek) that Vista does not copy features of Macintosh OS X. Laugh-out-loud funny.

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Social networking goes mobile

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 11:35 AM

A lot of companies are trying to duplicate the hysteria of MySpace on the mobile phone, but in many cases it seems like early days.

M:Metrics, a Seattle research firm, released a report today that examines the behavior of 13- to 17-year-olds and 18- to 24-year-olds in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States when it came to photo messaging, video messaging, IM, chat, dating and user-created content, and other services on the phone.

It showed that teens are interested in taking their online social habits mobile.

"Much as teens were the early adopters of PC-based social networking applications, they have proven to be the innovators in the mobile arena," said Paul Goode, vice president and senior analyst at M:Metrics. "Although teenagers and young adults make up only six to 10 percent of mobile subscribers, they generate more than their fair share of mobile content."

In the U.S., 36.7 percent of those between the ages of 13 and 17 generated their own content, or used a social-networking application from their phone in October. In the older demographic segment, the results were even higher at 45 percent.

In Italy, the results were 69.7 percent and 63.6 percent, respectively.

Photo messaging to another phone was the most popular category of user-generated content, with 19.9 percent of Americans reporting they had used the feature in October. Sharing videos captured by a mobile phone was also very popular.

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Update on the iPhone

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 11:10 AM

Yesterday, in a blog posting we reported that Apple Computer shares rose after investors speculated on whether the company was working on an iPhone, which would meld together an iPod and a cellphone.

Many of the details were unknown, but today, another Wall Street analyst said that Apple Computer is poised to launch its own wireless service that piggybacks on the Cingular Wireless network. The model, called mobile virtual network operator, enables Apple to sell the service directly to the customer by acquiring wholesale capacity from Cingular Wireless.

The note was written by UBS AG telecom analyst Benjamin Reitzes, who speculates the company would then sell its much-rumored iPhone music player/networked handset across its 174 retail outlets.

In a story on Barron's Online, it looks at the challenges facing Apple should it end up doing this.

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Testing the T-Mobile Wi-Fi service

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 11:03 AM

The New York Times today wrote a review of the new T-Mobile voice over Wi-Fi service that's only available in the Seattle area.

The service allows users to save minutes in their plan by using a Wi-Fi network and not T-Mobile's cellular network.

The reviewer's conclusion:

"I found the service a reasonable first draft of what could become a reliable alternative to both all-cellular networks and an emerging set of Wi-Fi-only phones."

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Baidu, Microsoft in alliance over Web ads in China

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano at 9:54 AM, the Google of China, will sell advertising for Microsoft Web sites, according to a Securities and Exchange Filing today. The deal could be a big win for Microsoft's nascent business selling search-related online advertising.

Reuters first reported the filing, which says the companies are announcing a strategic alliance, beginning this month, around paid search advertising -- the source of most of Google's revenues.

"As a result of this strategic alliance, Microsoft will display Baidu's paid search listings on the search results pages of certain Microsoft websites, including MSN, Live, and other partner websites in China," according to the filing.

"Microsoft is committed to bringing innovative online services and software, including search services, to Chinese Internet users," Erik Johnson, general
manager of the Microsoft Online Services Group in China, said in a statement. "China is one of our most important markets and the strategic alliance with Baidu will help us provide new opportunities for advertisers which will further enhance our search business in China."

"Baidu's partnership with Microsoft recognizes the huge potential and rate of growth of the Chinese online search market," David Zhu, COO of Baidu, said in a statement.

The SEC filing included no financial details of the deal.

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December 13, 2006

iPhone rumors ringing in ears

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 12:28 PM

Apple Computer shares rose today as investors speculated on whether the company was working on an iPhone, which would meld together an iPod and a cellphone, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Shares of Apple gained $2.22 to $88.36 this afternoon.

The gains were based on speculation by Wall Street analysts that Apple was going to release a phone soon.

UBS backed a "buy" rating, saying that it sees the company releasing a branded cellphone in March or April.

Additionally, Analyst Benjamin Reitzes speculated that Apple may be its own carrier, through a mobile virtual network operator model similar to Amp'd Mobile or Disney Mobile.

Speculation arose in October that T-Mobile USA might be the first carrier to roll out a iPhone. The rumors gained steam after Robert Dotson, T-Mobile's CEO, commended Apple in October for being a forward-looking company that was attune with the customer.

Still, I wonder how the iPhone would be that much different than cellphones that have iTunes? Several phones have the software, which is a less than stellar experience, given that Apple limits the listener to 200 songs no matter how large the memory card is inside the phone.

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MySpace and Treemo sitting in a tree

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 11:56 AM

Seattle-based Treemo said today that it added MySpace co-founder Brett Brewer to its board of directors.

Treemo, which helps people upload images taken by camera phones to the Internet, also launched TreemoTXT, a new feature that allows mobile users to be instantly connected to any user's channel of content on its real-time social media platform.

"Treemo has the right technology, strategy, team and connections to take a leadership role in bringing user generated, multimedia content to the next level and makes it easily available across three screens -- mobile, Web and TV," said Brett Brewer, now president of AdKnowledge.

Brewer has built several Internet businesses since graduating from UCLA in 1996, the largest of which was Intermix Media (the parent of MySpace), which itself was sold to News Corp. for $673 million in October 2005. In his latest venture at, he is looking at behavior-based advertising.

"We've built tremendous momentum over the last several months since launching, both with carrier relationships and customer traction," said Brent Brookler, Treemo's CEO. "The addition of Brett to our board will further strengthen and enhance our ability to grow this business and deploy our content across broader platforms."

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Len Lauer's back

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 11:35 AM

In August, Sprint Nextel announced that Len Lauer, the chief operating officer, was leaving the company.

Lauer had been one of Sprint's leaders on the company's plans regarding WiMax, which provides high-speed wireless Internet access.

The departure was somewhat sudden, but It was explained as part of plans to accelerate the pace of the transition from the merger of Sprint and Nextel.

After reporting this information on the blog, a reader wondered where Lauer might land: Would he be hired by Kirkland-based Clearwire, which is building a WiMax network competitive to Sprint's?


Today, Qualcomm announced it has hired Lauer as a corporate executive vice president and as group president overseeing key divisions: Wireless Business Solutions, MEMS Technologies, government technologies and the mobile TV subsidiary, MediaFLO USA.

The placement is interesting because Qualcomm has been very critical of WiMax as a technology, and instead supports the use of Qualcomm's Flarion technology, still under development.

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December 12, 2006

Server error: the DMV

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 3:53 PM

Today, I found a handy and surprisingly high-tech feature, especially for the Washington State Department Licensing Web site.

When you click on one of the office locations, you can find out how long the wait is for both renewing a driver's license and for getting a first-time license.

For instance, at the time I was writing this, the downtown Seattle office had a 27- minute wait for renewals and no wait at all for first-time licenses. At the Rainier office a few miles south, it was the reverse. There was no wait for renewals and a 23-minute wait for first-time licenses.

To be even more high-tech, I figured I'd email the URL to myself so I could check the status of the lines tomorrow morning before leaving the house. Depending on the lines, I'd either head north to downtown or south to Rainier.

Unfortunately, when testing this theory, I found that the site doesn't support BlackBerry; I encountered an error when the page was loading.

So close, yet so far away.

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National lab loses top leader

Posted by Kristi Heim at 2:59 PM

The U.S. has been falling behind in science and technology leadership, and no one knew that better than Len Peters, director of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland.

Peters plans to leave that position Jan. 1. He's moving to a corporate job at Battelle, the Ohio company that manages the lab for the federal government, Battelle said today.

Peters has been outspoken about the need for better science education, not just to create more money and jobs, but to solve critical problems in the environment and other areas, he wrote in this article earlier this year.

In his three years as director, Peters pushed for innovation in using hydrogen fuel cells to replace fossil fuels, developing the national power grid and strengthening the Northwest as a technology base.

The size and scope of Battelle is mind boggling. As the world's largest independent research and development organization, it spends $3.7 billion a year on R&D. It has 20,000 employees in more than 120 locations worldwide, including PNNL and four other national laboratories it manages for the Department of Energy.

Its Seattle Research Center employs about 160 people and focuses in large part on global security technology (combining policy with science toward preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction).

The word is Peters will stay in the Tri-Cities area to do community outreach for Battelle. With his ideas and experience, you wonder why he isn't moving to Washington D.C.

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Santa calls collect

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 2:31 PM

Kirkland-based GotVoice said today that it is providing a new free service that lets people create and send voicemails to their family and friends from Santa Claus.

The "Voicemail from Santa" service is designed for children and adults.

The company said it takes less than a minute to construct a message from Santa by selecting from various options, such as whether recipients are boys or girls or whether they have been naughty or nice.

Messages from Santa include things like "Ho, ho, ho!," and that they have been good this year, so they will get presents.

When not at the North Pole, GotVoice provides a service that allows users to access their voicemail in their e-mail inbox or in their personal GotVoice Web page. The company said about 35,000 people already use the service today.

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Need a parking spot?

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 2:05 PM

A new Cambridge, Mass., company called is planning to launch a service that would allow drivers to hunt for parking spaces using their cellphones, according to a story today in The Boston Globe.

For anyone who works in the South Lake Union neighborhood, like me, and moves his or her car every two hours to avoid getting a ticket, this has some definite potential. Especially because sometime early next year, the city will be installing meters here (last item), which will virtually eliminate the possibility of parking on the street.

The story says that to use the service, customers would punch in the address of a destination, along with the date and time they want to arrive. A map would pop up with a list of nearby available spots, showing the price of each and the time it would take to walk to the final destination.

The service will use information from local garages, which will list spaces they have empty at any given time, and posts from those who own spaces they don't use during vacations or work hours. Eventually, the founder said, the service will include postings from motorists who have parked at metered spaces and want to auction their departure time to the highest bidder. It could even incorporate private driveways, etc.

Of course, it would take a criticalmass for this to be successful, and all users must have Internet-ready phones. But with WiMax networks being built, making Internet access attainable on miniature devices everywhere, this is a concept that could take off. The builders of these networks are always saying that the applications for WiMax have not even been imagined yet. Perhaps this is one of them?

Unfortunately, it is only being tested in Boston, Cambridge, New York, and San Francisco. So no luck here, at least not for now.

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Hyper growth ahead for HyperQuality

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 12:30 PM

HyperQuality said today that it has raised $10 million in venture capital.

The Seattle company monitors customer-care telephone conversations, e-mail and chat interactions for mid-size to Fortune 1000 companies from two evaluation centers, one in Gurgaon, India, and the other in Seattle.

The round was led by Bellevue's Ignition Partners with participation of Miramar Venture Partners, Rustic Canyon and Divergent Ventures. Previously, the company had raised $5.5 million.

HyperQuality will use the new funds to invest in product development and technology, and to expand its sales force to support sales, which are expected to grow by 200 percent in 2007.

Today, its services are used by more than 35,600 agents from 136 call centers, representing customers such as AOL, Allconnect, Carlson Leisure Travel Services, Covad, Lillian Vernon and Time Warner Cable.

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December 11, 2006

No more CDs, what's next?

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 1:49 PM

When you cover technology for a living, it's easy to get wrapped up in the newest, and almost always better, devices and products hitting store shelves.

But this story in the Washington Post today reminded me that the old way of doing things may perhaps have been better, or at least a better experience for the senses.

Paul Farhi, a Post staff writer, tests this notion regarding the closure of Tower Records, which is finally succumbing to the Internet.

He writes:

And isn't that better? Doesn't the digital universe give anyone with a computer and a credit card wider and speedier access to more music than any Tower could ever stock? Isn't it better when you never have to find a parking space or deal with one of those haughty, green-haired clerks who always gave your Beach Boys and show-tune selections a look that said, "Wow, you are such a geezer"?
No, it isn't. Not exactly.

Farhi writes that something is lost when you go online. When you go to the store, you fight for parking, you can physically sift through shelves of options and you can smell the people next to you.

That made me wonder. What other things has technology replaced for the worse? Maybe that's a bit harsh, but technology may have sterilized other experiences as well?

Were telephones better when they had cords and didn't leave the house? Does solving a calculus problem on paper feel better than punching numbers into a computer?

What do you think?

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Hold a Palm in the palm of your hand

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 11:23 AM

Palm said today that it is launching a $25 million marketing campaign that will: "show people what life is like with a Treo smartphone and remind them that they don't have to look for an Internet café to access the information they want while on the go."

What exactly does that look like? Well, the campaign takes a multi-prong approach that includes the tagline: "Not just a cell phone. A Treo." There's also a new "microsite"; a viral campaign that includes Palm foot soldiers wearing bright-colored Treo clothing; and the opening of retail locations, including a new flagship store in New York, at Rockefeller Center.

Palm is just the latest to intensify its marketing tactics. Nokia and Motorola also have opened "experience" stores, which allow consumers to come in and test the products. Typically, the stores don't even sell products.

Palm stores will sell and activate devices, but there are none in the Seattle area.

I'm not sure what all the fuss is about.

I'm guessing it's either that competition among the device makers, such as RIM's BlackBerry, Palm, HTC, Nokia and Motorola, is heating up. Or it may be that people are finally looking for devices that can do more, but they need someone to hold their hand a bit during a fairly steep learning curve.

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More year-end stuff

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 11:04 AM

A study released today is a great follow-up to our story about how 2006 was a huge year for big product releases and major acquisitions.

According to a global year end analysis by Dow Jones VentureOne and Ernst & Young, venture-capital activity in the U.S., Europe, China and Israel in 2006 is poised to hit a five-year high, registering the highest annual investments since 2001. This year, investment is expected to top $32 billion after the fourth quarter.

Along with the strong investment growth, the analysis showed strong interest in emerging industries, such as "cleantech" and Web 2.0.

In the U.S. so far this year, $585.6 million has been invested in 60 companies focused on clean technology, which uses natural resources efficiently or reduces the ecological impact of production. That is 30 percent more than what was invested in all of 2005.

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Sotto tests out services in Seattle

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 10:55 AM

Bellevue-based Sotto Wireless, founded by ex-McCaw Cellular executives, said today that it has started testing its small business phone service in the Seattle area.

Seattle is the second test market for Sotto's services; it rolled out a test in Charlotte, N.C., last month. The company replaces the need for separate landline and cellphones by allowing a cellphone to use a Wi-Fi network in an office to save on minutes and get better coverage.

In Seattle, Sonic Boon, Burgess Enterprises and Starfire Sports are testing Sotto's services.

Beginning early next year, the company plans to roll out its service aggressively to all the nation's major metro areas.

Commercial availability should take place in the first quarter, and Sotto expects to be in over a dozen markets by the end of 2007.

The company is quiet on which phones it will be offering, besides the E70 it originally launched with, and what cellphone carrier the phones it will be using, other than the non-exclusive use of SunCom in North Carolina.

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Second Life going a bit too far?

Posted by Kim Peterson at 10:33 AM

CNET's site is interviewing an IBM exec in charge of technical strategy and innovation on Tuesday. Not really noteworthy until you get to the location of the interview: CNET's Second Life office.

You're invited to listen in, as long as you can follow these directions: "The interview is in the auditorium on the third floor of the CNET office, and the easiest way to get in is to fly to the open balcony to the right of the building's main entrance."

I find the Second Life phenomenon fascinating, but this strikes me as more than a little ridiculous.

On another note, I'm going to be out of the office on a leave of absence for the next three months or so. Happy holidays and see you in the spring.

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December 7, 2006

WSA extends awards deadline

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 12:58 PM

In November, I told you about how the applications deadline for the WSA's 12th annual Industry Achievement Awards gala was coming up Dec. 1. Well, the state's tech organization wanted to give you a little more time, so applications are now due Dec. 15.

The event will recognize the state's most outstanding technology achievements in a variety of categories, including Business Product of the Year, Consumer Product or Service of the Year, Service Provider of the Year, Best Use of Technology in the Government or Non-Profit Sector, Technology Innovator of the Year and Breakthrough Technology of the Year.

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Nintendo seeking Wii antidote

Posted by Kim Peterson at 12:57 PM

Nintendo is now trying to get everyone to calm down and stop abusing furniture, window panes, other players and houseplants with its new Wii controller. Some Web sites are showing evidence of the damage that can happen when the controller flies out of a player's hands and hits nearby objects.

Just how excited could someone get? Here's a good example.

"Some people are getting a lot more excited than we'd expected," Nintendo President Satoru Iwata said, according to the Associated Press. "We need to better communicate to people how to deal with Wii as a new form of entertainment."

Well known Nintendo developer Shigeru Miyamoto reportedly said the company is looking for additional methods to get people to chill out.

"We are encouraging people to understand that you really don't have to be so excited," he said. Look for a lineup of Wii relaxation products at game stores in the future.

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Thinking about James Kim

Posted by Kristi Heim at 12:05 PM

Yesterday it felt like the world was searching for James Kim. The digital world that Kim knew so well pulsed with information, and we wanted to know more, captivated by his plight and the image of his instantly likeable face.

Today we are searching for answers that may never come. When a reporter here saw the first story that his body was found and read the news to our small tech team, the sadness and disappointment struck like a physical blow. More than 2,000 comments followed CNET's announcement Wednesday, and many people who never knew the man were in tears.

Earlier this week, when the search for Kim dragged on, I began to feel angry. Why with all the technology we glorify was there not an easier solution for finding him? Others lamented: if only he had OnStar or GPS.

Now I wonder whether we all put too much faith in technology. Maybe it makes us feel invincible. Sure we can operate a BlackBerry while driving. Sure we can get to our destination in 4.5 hours; it says so in the convenient directions we pulled up in seconds over the Internet. If not, we have a mobile phone, so we can just call.

Kim lived in ultra-wired San Francisco, where he wrote about tech gadgets and was "always connected," as his friends described. What epic struggle must happened out there when he was all alone fighting to find any help for his family?

At the end of the day, we are all just flesh and blood, capable of wrong turns, vulnerable to even small variations in temperature, fortunate for every day we can take a breath. As the virtual world mourns James Kim, that might be something to remember.

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Pluggd unplugs "perfected" claim

Posted by Kim Peterson at 10:52 AM

Seattle-based Pluggd, which connects users with online audio and video broadcasts, said Intel Capital has become one of its investors and has contributed to a $1.65 million round. Other investors include former Microsoft execs Scott Oki and Paul Maritz.

Matt Marshall at VentureBeat writes that Pluggd claims it has "perfected the user experience" for audio and visual search. That's a pretty bold statement, especially for a small startup that has raised only $1.65 million.

That led Cornelius Willis from Pluggd to comment that he was "a little startled" when he saw the word "perfected" in VentureBeat.

"We believe we've done a better job on user experience for media search than anyone to date, but we're not done," Willis writes. We wrote about Pluggd in September.

In other news, Marchex, a Seattle online advertising company, said today it has spent $26 million in cash to buy back a little more than half of the convertible shares of stock it issued back in 2005 to raise money.

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December 6, 2006

Ballmer selected for government innovation panel

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano at 2:31 PM

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is one of 15 business leaders and academics selected to serve on a U.S. Department of Commerce panel to study innovation and its impact on the American economy.

Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez formed the -- deep breath -- "Measuring Innovation in the 21st Century Economy Advisory Committee" to develop ways of measuring innovation to help policy makers understand its contribution "to American economic prosperity and high living standards," according to a press release.

Ballmer will serve on the committee along with CEOs from 3M, UPS, Medtronic and IBM, among others. There's a full list in the release.

The short bio of Ballmer says he's "focused on continuing Microsoft's innovation across the company's seven businesses." Seven? There are three divisions and, as of a change earlier this year, five operating segments. And the company has countless product groups. I wonder what the seven refers to.

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Mercer Island man caught DWB

Posted by Kim Peterson at 2:02 PM

As in Driving While Blackberrying. He rear-ended the car in front of him Tuesday, setting off a small chain reaction that didn't injure anyone seriously.

Cellphones and other devices don't play as big a role as one might think in local traffic accidents, however. According to our story, drunken driving, fast speeds and drugs play a part in 93.5 percent of all collisions in Washington.

The remaining 6.5 percent results from other causes. No. 5 on that list is talking on a cellphone or using a BlackBerry. Using a hands-free device on a cellphone is No. 10, and operating a laptop is No. 11.

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Clearwire will roll out Wi-Fi in Grand Rapids

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 12:31 PM

The city of Grand Rapids, Mich. selected Clearwire on Tuesday to build a privately owned wireless broadband network for mobile, portable and nomadic data service in a 45-square mile area.

The summary agreement suggests Grand Rapids got a pretty sweet deal.

Kirkland-based Clearwire will provide discounted service of $9.95 a month to up to 5 percent of the households in Grand Rapids for qualifying low-income citizens, and Clearwire will offer free Wi-Fi hot spots throughout the city for visitors and occasional users. It will even reimburse the city the $100,000 it spent on the due diligence process.

The summary also includes one piece of very interesting information. It says Clearwire will be building the first large-scale, municipal mobile WiMax deployment in the country in Grand Rapids.

That's entirely possible. Up until now, Clearwire has been building out pre-WiMax networks, which are not mobile, but are considered nomadic instead. Typically, people cannot move while using the service.

The summary goes on to stipulate that Clearwire will enable public safety vehicles to use the service while traveling up to 70 miles per hour. (Watch out! You thought driving while using a BlackBerry was dangerous.)

I wonder about the claim that it will be the first, however. Supposedly, the first true mobile WiMax deployment was supposed to take place in Portland, where Clearwire and Intel could keep a close eye on things. That announcement was made at WiMax World in Boston this fall. Perhaps it is the difference between a commercial and trial market?

Clearwire, which unsuccessfully submitted a proposal to work on a broadband network in Seattle, is also working with the city of Fairfax, Va.

Ben Wolff, Clearwire's co-CEO, told me at WiMax World that his company is definitely interested in working with municipalities.

He explained that it made sense for there to be two wireless broadband networks in one city and how Clearwire could still attract customers when Wi-Fi might be cheaper, if not free. He said Wi-Fi is good for outdoor coverage and basic service, but WiMax is preferred when looking for indoor coverage, faster speeds and a certain level of quality.

"There's a place for muni-Wi-Fi and Clearwire in the world. They are complementary," Wolff said.

UPDATE: Despite quite an elaborate presentation at WiMax World, where a live video stream showed people installing a mobile WiMax tower in Portland, Clearwire talked down the presentation today. It said Intel's announcement, made at WiMax World, was that it was building "one of North America's first mobile WiMAX trials."

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Revisiting the cellphone-cancer issue

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 11:19 AM

A frequent question about cellphones is whether they are linked to causing cancer.

That's difficult to answer because studies have come to conflicting conclusions.

According to a study released yesterday, cellphones do not increase a person's risk of tumors of the brain, salivary gland or eyes, leukemia or cancer overall, according to a Reuters report.

The broad study involved more than 400,000 Danish cellular telephone users, who were studied by a team of researchers, who used data on the entire population of Denmark to find that neither short- nor long-term use of cellphones, was linked to cancer.

"I think the results of this study are quite reassuring," Joachim Schuz of the Danish Institute of Cancer Epidemiology in Copenhagen, the lead researcher, told Reuters in an interview by cellphone from Denmark.

"The big advantage is a whole nation is included in the study," Schuz said.

Cellphones do emit an electromagnetic field that can penetrate the brain, and some scientists have sought to determine whether this could cause cancer or other health problems.

The FDA's Web site has a conflicting study that reports an increased risk of malignant brain tumor associated with long-term use (10 or more years) of cellphones or cordless phones.

But it concludes that the study's approach is different than others, and the absence of supporting animal data make it difficult to interpret.

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Microsoft: 1 million Zunes by June 30

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano at 11:08 AM

Bryan Lee, corporate vice president of Microsoft's entertainment business, said the company aims to sell more than 1 million Zunes during the 2007 fiscal year, which ends June 30.

This is the first sales forecast the company has released for its entry into the digital media player market, which is dominated by Apple Computer's iPod. NPD Group, a market researcher, reported earlier this week that the Zune had slipped to fifth place, after debuting in second.

Lee said the external sales forecast matches its internal goals for growing the product.

"It's really a 10-year goal if you will and our goal in the first phase is to become relevant in the space," Lee said.

One thing that's surprised him from the first three weeks of sales is the Zune appears to be growing the market for digital music players rather than taking market share away from the iPod.

As for the pink Zunes, Lee said there are 50 of them out there, along with 50 in orange.

The majority of Zunes are in white, black and brown. Lee said brown is proving to be the hardest color to get.

Here's more of our Zune coverage.

Kim Peterson's look at the challenge Microsoft faces in unseating the iPod.

Brier Dudley's Zune review.

Brier on launch events in Seattle.

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Pink Zune?

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano at 10:22 AM ("because girls love gadgets too") is talking about the limited number of pink Zunes out there. A quick search on eBay revealed plenty of pink skins and leather cases to dress up the Zune, and at least one blushing media player.

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December 5, 2006

Inrix expands traffic results to more areas

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 3:10 PM

Kirkland-based Inrix said today that it now provides traffic prediction services for more than 47,000 miles in 73 metropolitan areas.

This expansion became possible through the latest release of the company's new platform called the Inrix Traffic Fusion Engine. The company uses statistical techniques to predict traffic by aggregating events that affect traffic patterns and information derived from road sensors and GPS-enabled vehicles.

When Inrix first announced in May that it would be gathering information from fleet vehicles using GPS, it covered only 30 cities and 10,000 miles. Those markets included Miami, San Antonio and New York, each of which have had no data from road sensors.

The expansion means cities the company now covers include Cleveland; Hartford, Conn.; Knoxville, Tenn.; Tampa, Fla;, and Tucson, Ariz.

A complete list of Inrix markets and coverage maps is available here.

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CNET editor's family tracked by cell phone

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 2:50 PM

In numerous reports today, searchers said they were able to find the family of the missing CNET editor by accessing data sent from their cellphone.

After getting stranded, James Kim, 35, left his car from a remote location in Oregon to get help. Although he hasn't been found, searchers were able to track down his wife and children in part after experts pinned down a cell tower that had picked up a signal from the phone.

Searchers then used a computer model to approximate the location of the cellphone. That led searchers to an area near Bear Camp Road, where Kati Kim and the children were found.

Picking up that signal was critical to the success of the search effort, said Josephine County undersheriff Brian Anderson.

This raises the question on how cellphones can or cannot help in off-the-beaten- track locations.

Consumer Reports, which released a new survey yesterday, found that one in 25 wireless callers never successfully connect or communicate with 911.

Ten years ago the FCC mandated that wireless phones be able to connect to 911, and be able to provide the 911 operator with information, such as the caller's cellphone number and location where he is calling from. The phone does this using either GPS or by gauging the distance of the caller from the nearest cell towers.

But the survey found that nearly half of country is still without 911 centers that can find wireless callers. And the National Emergency Number Association, which tracks telephone services, reported that 109 counties in the U.S. still have no 911 or E911 service at all.

In a separate survey, Consumer Reports found that 29 percent of people buying a cellphone said they are doing it for emergency purposes.

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Zunes show up in local clubs

Posted by Kim Peterson at 11:26 AM

Metroblogging Seattle reports on some stealth Zune marketing at local nightclubs. Microsoft sets up Zunes to look at, apparently, but not to listen to:

In what seems like a missed marketing opportunity, however, none of the Zunes are actually driving the club's sound system -- the speakers are purely for show. And while the secret (marketing) codeword would get you into the show for free, there was no giveaway or other opportunity to win a Zune itself. You'd think that with all the "social" features of the music player, that loaning out a few for the duration of the evening (maybe leave an ID or take a card imprint to ensure return) would be a nice way to demo the wireless music-sharing feature.

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MSFT confirms earnings expectations for '07

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano at 10:15 AM

Microsoft CFO Chris Liddell told investors today he expects revenues to grow 13 to 15 percent in the 2007 fiscal year, which ends June 30. That's the same tune the company has been singing since Oct. 26, when it announced first quarter results and gave guidance for the rest of the fiscal year.

Here's coverage from Bloomberg of Liddell's speech to a Nasdaq conference in London.

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December 4, 2006

New Amazon deal with HP

Posted by Kim Peterson at 4:12 PM

Hewlett-Packard is going to provide Amazon with industrial speed color printers for Amazon's print-on-demand service, according to

An HP executive says it's part of the company's transformation from a printer company to a printing company.

Amazon said the deal would "significantly increase" the number of print-on-demand titles it can offer customers.

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Part of missing family found

Posted by Kim Peterson at 3:08 PM

Some good news out this afternoon about the family of CNET tech editor James Kim, which had been missing since Nov. 25 after a Thanksgiving visit to Seattle.

Kim's wife and two daughters have been found alive and were airlifted to a local hospital, authorities said in a 3 p.m. press conference. The search continues for Kim, who, according to this story, left the family car on snowshoes two days ago to get help.

Another press conference has been scheduled for 5 p.m. to release more information, and it can be viewed live here.

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Washington spyware scam

Posted by Kristi Heim at 2:14 PM

So what exactly is Washington's spyware law? The law "makes it illegal to induce computer users to download software by falsely claiming the software is necessary for security purposes," according to Attorney General Rob McKenna's office.

But the company that McKenna's office investigated didn't stop there. Its free scan always detected spyware, even on a clean computer (then pitched a $50 software download to remove it). But when tested on a computer infected with spyware, its cleaner failed to detect it. Then the program erased the file needed to store blocked Web addresses, making the computer even more vulnerable.

As a result of the investigation and lawsuit, McKenna reached a $1 million settlement with New York-based Secure Computer to resolve the state's first spyware case on behalf of the estimated 1,145 state residents who purchased the products Spyware Cleaner and Popup Padlock. More information is here.

Secure Computer has agreed to send information on refunds to its Washington state customers. The message will be titled "Secure Computer, LCC Refund Program." While that message sounds suspiciously like spam, victims of the spyware scam will need to reply to this email to get their money back.

One last word of advice from McKenna: Ignore requests for personal information when replying to the e-mail. Oh, and if your computer is frozen because of all the viruses Spyware Cleaner allowed in, you can call 1-800-551-4636.

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Redmond spinoff to go public

Posted by Kim Peterson at 12:12 PM

Looks like Redmond is be getting a new publicly traded company. Medical device maker Medtronic says it's going to spin off its Redmond division into an independent company that carries the division's former name, Physio-Control.

Physio-Control, which makes heart defribrillators, will have about 1,200 employees -- half of them based in Redmond -- and annual sales of about $450 million.

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December 1, 2006

Microsoft: innovator or catcher-upper?

Posted by Kim Peterson at 11:59 AM


Microsoft is troubled. They've grown to the size of IBM when they ran circles around them, and they behave like IBM, they even talk about themselves like IBM used to talk about themselves, showing a dangerous confidence that is very un-Microsoft.
--Software developer Dave Winer, in a debate about Microsoft's ability to innovate in today's Wall Street Journal
Microsoft is struggling -- struggling to stay important to a new always-on, always-connected world. Microsoft made a bet against the Web back about five years ago and Microsoft is struggling with that mistake.
--Former Microsoft evangelist Robert Scoble, responding to Winer's comments

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Two Microsofties chime in on search wars

Posted by Kim Peterson at 11:23 AM

Search engine statistics come out every month or so, but for some reason the latest round of numbers has seen some unusual attention and debate. Maybe it's because the SearchEngineWatch site posted an analysis of the numbers. What's most interesting to me is reading what two Microsoft employees have to say about why the company's search engine is regularly losing market share.

According to comScore, Nielsen//NetRatings and Hitwise, Microsoft ranked third in the search engine business in October with a market share that ranged from 8.8 percent to 11.7 percent.

That drew some comments from Erik Selberg of Microsoft's Windows Live search team. Writing in his blog, Selberg said that when he first arrived at the company, his bosses wanted to beat Google in relevance after just two years. That didn't happen, and the team is still debating how long it'll take to achieve that goal. At least Microsoft search is no longer laughable, Selberg writes.

Right now, he writes, Google wins on brand and quality:

Here's the honest truth... Microsoft will continue to lose share until it can make something people chose versus just the IE (Internet Explorer) default. That will happen when the average person starts to see as a bit better than Google.

Microsoft developer Dare Obasanjo chimes in with a post entitled "Competing with Google is like the war in Iraq." Obasanjo disagrees that beating Google means having better search results or relevance. It's only about brand and recognition now.

Google's brand is synonymous with search, he writes. And as far as distribution goes, Google has effectively made itself the primary search engine for many people who search directly through toolbars in their browsers.

As far as the Iraqi war comparison, Obasanjo writes, "As I read Erik's post, one phrase kept repeating itself in my head over and over again; 'Stay the Course...Stay the Course...Stay the Course'."

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CNET editor missing after Seattle trip

Posted by Kim Peterson at 11:16 AM

James Kim, a senior editor at CNET, is reportedly missing after driving to Seattle with his family for the Thanksgiving holiday.

According to Engadget, Kim and his family were last seen on Saturday somewhere around Portland.

Here's the San Francisco Police Department's missing persons report on the family. I'll update here as the situation develops.

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Tricia Duryee
Tricia Duryee

Angel Gonzalez
Angel Gonzalez

Kristi Heim
Kristi Heim

Benjamin J. Romano
Benjamin J. Romano

Mark Watanabe