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November 20, 2013 at 6:11 PM
Apparently the economy’s doing all right and the game industry is poised for a big rebound, following this month’s launch of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4.
November 13, 2013 at 6:27 PM
Normally I’m not a fan of flashing lights on a box below the TV set, but I love the LED light bar on top of Sony’s sleek new PlayStation 4 console.
October 28, 2013 at 11:46 AM
Ten years after it opened, the Paul G. Allen Center for Computer Science & Engineering still has that new-building smell.
October 7, 2013 at 12:13 PM
It’s a little odd when a company selling a new gadget says one of the most exciting features is its “help” button.
How many carmakers talk up their new models’ emergency brakes? Do airplane makers call out state-of-the-art oxygen masks?
But Amazon.com tries to think differently about the Kindle tablets it began selling five years ago. It may be on to something with the “Mayday” button that’s a highlight of its new Kindle HDX tablets.
May 13, 2013 at 11:42 AM
It’s not often that the physical manifestation of an app or Web service appears on the curb in front of your house.
But that’s how I look at the hundreds of funny little Car2Go vehicles that have appeared on the streets of Seattle like a swarm of blue and white ladybugs.
April 24, 2013 at 10:52 AM
Amazon.com may be preparing to release a new gadget to stream digital video content, posing a challenge to Roku, Apple TV and consoles such as the Xbox, PlayStation and Wii U.
January 31, 2013 at 11:47 AM
Amazon.com is having a major site outage with the main storefront unavailable. I wonder if it will slow the recent gains in Amazon.com stock – Amazon’s sales average over $100,000 per minute.
Here’s what I’m getting at my office next door to Amazon:
While Amazon.com’s main site is down, the company’s web services provided to other companies are up and running fine, according to the Amazon Web Services health dashboard.
I’ve asked the company what’s happening and will update if or when I hear back.
Meanwhile the stock’s down about 2.5 percent to $265.80, after opening at $271.17.
UPDATE: The site is apparently back up. The stock isn’t – it’s down around $8.50.
Sitedown.co suggest the site was out for about an hour. Apparently the outage affected Amazon P.R. as well.
UPDATE 2: Spokesman Ty Rogers provided a statement confirming that there was an outage but providing no details about what happened. The statement:
“The gateway page of Amazon.com was offline to some customers for approximately 49 minutes. Other pages of the site were accessible and AWS was not impacted.”
A person with inside knowledge of the situation said it was “not related to any outside group.”
I haven’t seen any heads rolling down Terry Avenue yet.
January 28, 2013 at 9:44 AM
If you had to put a face on the tech industry in Olympia, perhaps it should be that of Dudley Dursley, the pudgy, spoiled cousin of Harry Potter.
In the books, you can’t resent Dudley as much as his parents, who raised the boy to expect the world — with extra whipped cream and a few cherries on top. They shower him with treats and gifts, and only begrudgingly toss skinny little Harry a bone now and then.
If you think I’m being harsh, take a look at the latest tax proposals in the Legislature and how lawmakers, amid the latest funding crisis, are treating the state’s huge tech companies.
Microsoft, Amazon.com and others are in line for even more sweets at their annual Olympia lovefest, while ordinary companies and residents are being forced to clean up the mess.
People across the state are facing huge tax increases over the next few years to cover a shortfall in education funding.
Tech companies would be exempted from the proposed tax increases for education, but that wasn’t enough. They’re also lobbying to be sure they keep getting other tax breaks that ordinary business people can only dream about.
What makes this especially galling is that tech companies keep calling for the state to improve its education system, especially when it comes to training their future tech workers.
This pleading works. Despite funding problems in recent years, the state found ways to enlarge the University of Washington’s computer-science and engineering departments, largely by cutting back on other departments.
How are the chief beneficiaries showing their gratitude? By sidestepping the proposed new education taxes.
Basic education is a primary responsibility of the state under the Washington constitution. But for decades, lawmakers have been short-shrifting kids in the state, while ensuring that favorite industries get plenty of goodies.
After school districts sued, the state Supreme Court ordered the state to cover its education-funding shortfall. It’s the biggest issue facing lawmakers this year.
The education-funding proposal left on the table by former Gov. Gregoire would raise taxes on gas, beer and companies doing business in Washington. Not high-tech businesses, though; they would be exempt from the extra 0.3 percent business and occupation tax that builders, bakers, restaurants and most every other business would pay for the next three years.
Collectively, the nontech businesses of the state would pay $248 million more next year under Gregoire’s proposal. Gov. Inslee hasn’t proposed an alternative yet, but don’t count on him pressuring the tech companies that he embraced during his campaign.
The proposed gas tax would start at about 2 percent per gallon and rise to about 5 percent over the next four years. At the high end, that could add perhaps 16 cents to a gallon.
Gregoire’s proposal would also extend a special $15.50 per barrel tax on beer for another three years.
Dudley Dursley will do fine, though. Olympia giveth, as well as taketh. (image via Harry Potter Wiki)
Amid the education-funding debacle, lawmakers are offering another big gift to tech companies.
First up is House Bill 1303, a proposal to extend a B&O tax credit for tech companies researching and developing new products. Companies can use the credit to reduce their state tax bill by up to $2 million a year. Tech companies took $23.1 million worth of the credits in 2011, the most recent year for which a tally is available.
This deal expires in 2015 but, with HB 1303, a group of eight lawmakers has proposed extending the bill for 20 years — through 2035. A public hearing on the bill is scheduled for 10 a.m. Tuesday before the House Technology and Economic Development Committee. (Here’s the bill:HB 1303.pdf.)
I learned about the hearing from an email sent by a tech lobbying group, urging members to testify in support of extending both the B&O credit and an even more generous sales-tax break for tech companies. The sales-tax break also expires in 2015, and it’s a safe bet that someone will propose extending it out into the distant future.
Special tax treatment for “high-tech” companies dates back to the early 1990s, when the state’s software industry was beginning to bloom.
Originally the idea was to help companies developing complicated new products by letting them hold off on paying some taxes until their products went on sale.
Back then Microsoft was still building Windows 95 ,and Jeff Bezos was a young Wall Street banker.
As these tech companies grew and soared, so did the state’s generosity. The circa 1994 plan to let them defer sales tax on product-development expenses morphed into a sales-tax exemption, and the state extended the program decade by decade.
Whether these tax breaks made a difference is debatable. Although the cost to the state is significant — enough to cover much of its education shortfall — the tax savings are immaterial for the large recipients.
Public assistance makes sense for young companies that may be struggling to pay for product development, before they make their first sales. But after they’ve grown up, they should be embarrassed to be asking for these perpetual handouts.
The biggest beneficiaries of these breaks are now giants. They’re among the most prosperous companies in the world.
Microsoft, the most vocal proponent of improving math and science education, last week reported profit of more than $2 billion per month despite the struggles of the PC industry.
Washington state is doing its part.
Its tech sales tax exemption helped Microsoft and other tech companies avoid paying $31 million in 2011, and $249.8 million in sales taxes over the past eight years.
It’s funny — that’s almost exactly how much Gregoire’s education-funding plan would collect next year from a higher tax on the less privileged companies across the state.
If only there were a friendly wizard to even things out.
January 2, 2013 at 3:32 PM
Seattle’s tech billionaires got richer in 2012, according to Bloomberg’s billionaire index, which released a year-end report today.
Bill Gates gained $7 billion last year, bringing his estimated net worth to $62.7 billion, according to Bloomberg.
Jeff Bezos also jumped up the list with a $6.9 billion gain last year as his company’s stock jumped 45 percent.
Bezos is now worth an estimated $23.6 billion, putting him at 20th place globally. He’s also ahead of the Google guys and his former landlord, Paul Allen.
Overall the world’s billionaires added $241 billion to their collective worth, Bloomberg reported. Only 16 of the top 100 billionaires saw a net loss in 2012.
Gates benefited from Microsoft stock rising 2.9 percent last year, though his holdings in the company now account for less than 20 percent of his fortune.
The gains weren’t enough for Gates to overtake Mexico’s Carlos Slim, who remains the world’s richest.
But Gates still is the richest tech billionaire. Four of the top 10 tech billionaires live in the Seattle area. Bezos is in third place and Allen is in seventh, just ahead of Steve Ballmer.
November 6, 2012 at 10:49 AM
Amazon.com is pulling out the stops this month with a new monthly Prime membership.
The $7.99 monthly service includes access to Amazon.com’s library of streaming video content. By adding a monthly option, Amazon’s positioning it as more of a direct competitor to the video services of Netflix and Hulu Plus with similar monthly fees.
But access to a pool of online video is just one component of Amazon’s Prime service. Prime is mostly designed to encourage frequent shopping at the site, by providing “free” two-day shipping to subscribers as well as the video service and access to Kindle loaner material.
Adding a more accessible monthly Prime option just before the busiest retail season of the year could substantially boost Amazon’s merchandise sales.
It will especially appeal to careful shoppers who figure out that they can now pay just $7.99 and get free two-day shipping on all the gifts they buy at Amazon.com.
The strategy may be expensive for Amazon, though. The company assumes more shipping costs with Prime, but as an annual program, it enticed people to become more regular, long-term customers.
Amazon’s still offering annual $79 Prime memberships, which works out to $6.58 per month.
Now, with the monthly program, Amazon’s offering a lower barrier to entry. Customers who start with a monthly plan and get hooked will have to remember to switch to an annual plan or they’ll end up paying more than annual subscribers.
A spokeswoman offered a typically limited comment:
“Thank you for reaching out. We are always looking at ways to improve the shopping experience for our customers. We are testing a monthly Amazon Prime subscription. Beyond that we don’t have anything further to offer.”
We’ll have to see if Costco responds by testing a monthly membership to boost holiday traffic in its warehouses and on its web site.
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