Amazon’s Cloud Crash, Under-the-Radar Inventions, Zillow’s Trend-Setting IPO, & More in the Seattle-Area Tech Roundup

4/26/11Follow @curtwoodward

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subsidiaries here, and there will probably be more. The other note to keep in mind is that in two years, for the first time, Microsoft employees are going to have to start paying something for their health insurance.

—Back on the small-company front, we got the scoop on some exciting news for Seattle electronics shopping website Sparkbuy: The startup is now offering products from mega-retailer Best Buy, along with previous selection from Amazon and Newegg. It’s quite a partnership for Sparkbuy, which aims to boost shopping for laptops and TVs as powerful as travel booking by giving consumers more options for narrowing down their choices by features, price, and so on. Sparkbuy is run by Dan Shapiro, the entrepreneur behind photo-sharing service Ontela (now combined with Photobucket). He’s not the only one making a startup play in this sector—UW professor and Internet search guru Oren Etzioni is among a long roster of people behind Decide.com, a stealthy site that seems aimed at a similar niche. Decide announced last week that it had raised another $6 million in financing.

Paul Allen‘s publicity extravaganza continued with a long public interview on the stage at Town Hall. A packed crowd listened to Allen talk about his remarkable life, some early Microsoft anecdotes, his thoughts on the future of computing and the search for alternative energy, advanced brain treatments, music, and more. My takeaway was that Allen had finally given a better sense of who he is to the hometown audience—something that can be in short supply for a famously private guy, even though his hands are all over things in this town. After all these interviews tied to his book, could it be possible that people will actually get sick of hearing Paul Allen talk about himself?

—Finally, Kirkland, WA-based wireless company Clearwire (NASDAQ: CLWR) announced that it had settled a dispute over wholesale prices with Sprint (NYSE: S) in a $1 billion deal. It was a bit of positive news for Clearwire, which has been tearing through board resignations, executive shakeups, and layoffs in recent months. Interim CEO John Stanton, a veteran of the Seattle-area wireless scene, told the Wall Street Journal that the money would allow Clearwire to “operate efficiently over the next couple of years” and plan for expansion. But adding a different set of hardware to its fourth-generation wireless network will cost more money, he said.

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

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