Larry Smarr on the Internet, Past and Future; ViaSat Acquiring WildBlue Communications; SAIC’s Retired Founder Calls HQ Move ‘Inevitable;’ & More San Diego BizTech News

10/5/09Follow @bvbigelow

San Diego’s biztech news was tilted heavily toward the Internet last week, anchored by two in-depth stories about the Internet and Larry Smarr, the director of the California Institute for Information Technology and Communications. You can get that and more below—and you don’t need to listen for the Internet dial tone to get it either.

Larry Smarr’s career has led him from astrophysics to supercomputing and protocols—Internet protocols, that is. Smarr told me, “I didn’t invent anything to do with the World Wide Web, but I did create an environment in which it could flourish.” He estimates that a trillion dollars’ worth of technology innovation came out of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign during the 1990s while he was director of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications.  Smarr, who in 2000 was named director of the Calit2, the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology, also talked with me about four big ideas for the future of the Internet.

—You could say it’s a marriage made in the heavens: Carlsbad, CA-based satellite equipment maker ViaSat announced an agreement to acquire the satellite-based Internet service provider WildBlue Communications of Greenwood Village, CO; the deal is valued at $568 million. WildBlue sells its high-speed broadband service to about 400,000 mostly rural households, which gives ViaSat customers for the satellite it plans to launch in 2011.

SAIC’s retired founder, J. Robert Beyster, told me the government contractor’s recent decision to move its headquarters to Washington D.C. from San Diego was probably “inevitable.” Beyster, 85, remains active in San Diego, and is writing a three-part series on his blog about the nation’s energy future.

—San Clemente, CA-based LifeModeler’s founding CEO Shawn McGuan told me he adapted the company’s visualization software to help scientists understand how to assemble the puzzle pieces of a fossilized hominid that lived 4.4 million years ago. The seven-year-old startup’s software is used mostly by orthopedic surgeons to plan and practice surgeries that replace knees, hips, and other joints.

—San Diego entrepreneur and investor Neil Senturia, who heads local online news venture San Diego News Network, told Forbes he plans to raise $40 million and to launch 40 similar websites throughout the U.S. and Canada over the next 30 months. Senturia told Paid Content he expects the SDNN website to start breaking even by this time next year.

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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