Seattle Tech and Startup News from the Past Week
A Microsoft mainstay of its major Business Division was officially ushered into the cloud and out of beta by CEO Steve Ballmer who just debuted Microsoft Office 365, a hosted subscription service that offers a solution for organizations too small to boast IT staff. While Office touts a billion-plus users and a global reach, Google Apps is gaining a foothold and positioning itself as the choice for a new generation.
Founded as a social shopping service and headed by Max Ciccotosto, Seattle-based Wishpot now caters to retailers, with the official launch of a spin-off that promises to boost traffic three-fold. Touted as a smart complement to a social media campaign, Venpop enables custom promotions with Facebook and Twitter providing the social setting and the ideal audience.
Seattle startup Puzzazz already owned a niche as the source for interactive puzzle books on Kindle, and an infusion of angel funding from an impressive list of investors can fuel its quest for a presence on Android and iOS devices. Founder and Microsoft vet Roy Leban is the man behind ingenious electronic books that add an extra dimension to puzzles like Sodoku that count an army of fans.
Daily deals on deluxe accommodations are the latest offering of Off & Away, the Seattle startup and hotel auction service headed by Doug Aley. Groomed by sites like LivingSocial and Groupon, consumers are already conversant in daily deal doings, which also offer a better chance at securing a coveted slot at the Ritz-Carlton than the conventional bidding process.
Rhapsody abides in musical cloud it created decade ago Seattle Times
Rhapsody isn’t exactly changing its tune, but the online subscription music service is revamping to ensure it can be heard above the din of cloud competitors. A slew of new features plus a massive music menu should start to pay off for the company headed by Jon Irwin that is solidifying its newly won independence from RealNetworks.
New research paints a more promising picture of Daily Deals from the merchant side, contradicting prior studies indicating a lack of repeat business generated from these special offers. According to Foresee Results, nearly 2/3 of sales generated by Daily Deals can be considered new business – but ultimately the onus is on merchants to create smart deals and provide service that brings customers back after the deal is done.
Despite a fortune built on business conducted at digital speed, a $42M investment in a clock made to run for 10 millennia proves that Jeff Bezos believes in taking the long view. The Texas project whose scale rivals the pyramids may be the ultimate entrepreneurial vision, but it also distinguishes the Amazon.com creator from the more practical philanthropy of peers like Bill Gates.
It might not qualify as science, but a Seattle online attorney directory is detecting a trend that could signal a startup bubble, especially for a couple of tech hot spots. AVVO pageview rates for legal issues affecting startups are soaring in perennial hotbed Silicon Valley and in Austin, Texas, while NY and Seattle also registered on this unconventional radar.
Compatibility with a range of platforms gives Android a decided edge over iOS in the US mobile phone space, despite Apple’s continued reign over the device domain. In a bit of Apple baiting, Google Engineering VP Andy Rubin claimed via Twitter that the rate of Android adoption exceeds .5 million daily and rising.
Now in trial mode, PlayLater is a subscription service touted as a Tivo for downloaded web content, selectively recording your favorites for playback at your convenience. Promising an alternative to cable, PlayOn software from Seattle and NY-based MediaMail Technologies enables viewing of content streamed from the likes of Hulu and Netflix on a range of devices.
Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg is paying a visit to his new branch office, along with VP of Engineering Mike Schroepfer, to host a Q&A session for area developers. Finding talent to fill the downtown Seattle division is an ongoing mission, and the social network leader is hardly alone in choosing the fertile hunting ground that is home to Amazon and Microsoft.
Google fires up its latest social-networking site Seattle Times
The launch of Google+ pits the search king against the formidable power of Facebook, which holds a significant edge – and an advertising lure – in time spent on its site per user. Chastened by the Buzz fiasco that ended in an FTC settlement, Google is anxious to join the social arena, but it is admittedly arriving late to the dance.
With the sale of its Open and Enterprise lines, Likewise Software turns its full attention to storage, where the Bellevue company already claims a strong position. While some staff losses accompanied the acquisition by California-based BeyondTrust, new faces will be added to take the company helmed by Barry Crist on its new course.
Although the Facebook user base is skyrocketing, the social network boss is careful to keep growth within the company at a sustainable rate by focusing on hiring quality above quantity – and pushing important projects even on the newest interns. On a visit to the Emerald city, Mark Zuckerberg teased an upcoming development born in the Seattle office, the new hive of activity that is already abuzz and in high demand.
California’s new “Amazon tax” affects every out-of-state merchant with sales there, and it puts an end to the e-retailers’s contracts with affiliates in the state – so-called small businesses whose sales are often minuscule. While a similar New York tax is in legal limbo, the newly inked CA law is a dubious solution to state budget shortfalls and a kind of sneaky subversion of an earlier Supreme Court ruling.