Gates at UW, PopCap’s Mobile Guru, Redfin’s Millions: Wrapping up Seattle Tech Headlines

11/1/11Follow @curtwoodward

The past week in tech headlines was dominated by our leading alpha geek: Microsoft co-founder and chairman Bill Gates. Gates stopped by the University of Washington to give a short talk about the future of computing, and how he sees cheap, powerful storage and processing revolutionizing everything from robots to disease eradication (the part about malaria went on for kind of a long time).

But the most interesting part of the evening was surely the Q&A portion, in which Gates sat on stage with the UW’s Ed Lazowska to field questions on just about anything from students in the crowd. Gates seemed to rather enjoy the give-and-take, even when a young woman asked him how she could get rich.

As you’ve probably read by now, Gates marveled at how strange it was to be a billionaire, and said that once you get past a several million-dollar fortune, it’s really just more responsibility about how to give it away. “Once you get much beyond that—you know, I have to tell you, it’s the same hamburger,” Gates said to laughs. The UW now has the whole lecture up online.

Elsewhere around town:

PopCap Games mobile chief Giordano Contestabile reminisced about the inglorious past of mobile gaming, when all games on cell phones were basically hokey ways to get people to send premium-priced text messages. As Contestabile said on Twitter, “When mobile games were crap.” Now it’s quite a different story, of course, and Contestabile is one of the people in the driver’s seat pushing the boundaries of how games will evolve.

He’s also joining us Dec. 6 for Mobile Madness Northwest, our half-day forum presented with the Washington Technology Industry Association at F5 Networks in Seattle. Early Bird pricing only lasts until Nov. 15, so get your tickets now.

—Online real-estate brokerage Redfin added $14.8 million in venture funding, with designs on expanding the business into new markets around the U.S.. The round was led by new investor Globespan Capital Partners.

—Speaking of venture deals, we looked at September’s fundraising for Washington-based companies in technology, biotech, and clean energy and found a total of $32 million had been raised, according to data from our partners at research firm CB Insights. Medical companies led the pack, with $12 million for RF Surgical Systems and $10.6 million for Theraclone Sciences.

—More turmoil at Clearwire (NASDAQ: CLWR), which saw board member Benjamin Wolff resign. Wolff is a close associate of Clearwire founder and former chairman Craig McCaw. The Kirkland-based wireless provider has been on a roller coaster ride lately—mostly down—as it and majority shareholder Sprint figure out how to navigate Clearwire’s expensive changeover to a new type of broadband technology.

—The state of Washington has been cutting millions from education budgets in the past several years as its treasury deals with low tax revenue. So there was one spot of good news for students shouldering larger tuition burdens: The rollout of open-source course materials for the most common community and technical college courses, called the Open Course Library. The project is jointly paid for by the state and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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

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