Allen vs. Gates and Ballmer, Amazon Takes on Apple, Intellectual Ventures Whips Up a Market, & More in the Seattle-Area Tech Roundup

4/5/11Follow @curtwoodward

A juicy excerpt from billionaire Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen‘s new autobiography caused plenty of chatter around Seattle and the broader tech world this past week, and considering that he’s starting a book tour, I guess that’s the point. The stunning vignette, in the excerpt published in Vanity Fair, was a scene in which Allen writes that he caught co-founder Bill Gates and CEO Steve Ballmer conspiring to dilute Allen’s stake in the company while he was undergoing cancer treatment.

That blow-up, in Allen’s retelling, basically sealed his departure from day-to-day duties at Microsoft. Gates called Allen a friend in a reply statement, but did say he may remember events differently. In any case, I kind of thought the attention to that very noteworthy episode actually obscured the more nuanced, diverse portrait that Allen sketched of the two entrepreneurs’ relationship. Basically, it emerges as a complicated partnership—over the years traced in that writing, Allen is by turns amazed by, suspicious of, and angry at Gates. In any case, the whole book should be good reading.

Amazon.com continued its march into new cloud-based businesses by rolling out a music player and storage service tied to Android devices. There was a lot of focus devoted to the spat that Amazon apparently kicked up by not securing licenses from the record labels. But the even more interesting angle may be that Amazon is leapfrogging ahead of other big-name competitors—especially Apple—by taking personal music collections up to the cloud for storage and playback in a variety of places. Basically, it looks like Amazon is trying to position its freemium service as iTunes for Android—which is a pretty nice market to pursue.

—I sat down with Don Merino from Intellectual Ventures, Nathan Myhrvold’s unique patent-licensing and invention firm in Bellevue, WA, to get an inside take on how the company went about setting up a first-of-its-kind modern, large-scale middleman market for intellectual property. Merino was a pivotal player in this tale, having personally purchased about half of the first 1,200 patents that Intellectual Ventures secured—the portfolio is said to number above 30,000 at this point. This topic gets more energy every week, it seems, particularly in mobile—just this week, Google announced it was going big in a bid for Nortel patents in a bankruptcy auction.

—We also checked in with the folks at Seattle’s Zipline Games, which rolled out its new Moai development platform and cloud-hosting service for professional game developers. Moai’s main selling point is that it tries to bust down language barriers in game building by letting developers use Lua, a familiar game coding language, and translating that work into the different formats needed to make mobile games … Next Page »

Curt Woodward is a senior editor for Xconomy based in Boston. Email: cwoodward@xconomy.com Follow @curtwoodward

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