Amazon Startups Sink, Microsoft Profits Plummet, Sony Scraps with Xbox: Seattle Tech Highlights

4/27/09Follow @gthuang

There has been lots of activity in the Seattle tech blogosphere (gotta use that word once or twice a year) in the past few days. Some of the most compelling news is about the big local companies and how they’re dealing with major strategic challenges in this economic sandstorm. So far, they have avoided huge layoffs and cuts that might harm their long-term capabilities, although their financial statements are certainly taking a beating.

—The value of Amazon’s investments in private companies has fallen from $248 million last September to $89 million as of the end of March 2009 (a 64 percent drop), as reported by paidContent.org, TechFlash, and others. You can read the SEC filing here. But Amazon has been plowing ahead with startups, recently investing in New York-based Yieldex and Seattle-based Foodista (which has raised a $550,000 round, confirmed by TechFlash).

—Microsoft’s first-quarter revenues ($13.65 billion) dropped by 6 percent compared with the same period last year, which translated into a profit of $2.98 billion, down by 32 percent over the first quarter of 2008. That’s according to the company’s conference call and webcast last Thursday. No further layoffs were announced, at least. TechFlash and The Seattle P-I ran useful summaries and analysis of the earnings call here and here, pointing out that it’s the first time in Microsoft’s history as a public company that quarterly revenue has declined, when compared to the same period a year earlier.

—Sony’s game studios and partners in the Seattle area, including Sony Online Entertainment (Bellevue, WA), Sucker Punch Productions (Bellevue, WA) and Zipper Interactive (Redmond, WA), are all trying to help the entertainment giant, maker of the PlayStation 3, gain ground in its battles with Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and Nintendo’s Wii. That’s according to an in-depth feature story by Brier Dudley of The Seattle Times, who has also posted an extensive Q&A with Sucker Punch’s Chris Zimmerman, touching on the PS3-Xbox rivalry and Seattle’s formidable gaming cluster.

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com. Follow @gthuang