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Originally published Thursday, March 6, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Brier Dudley

Microsoft Research shows off its WorldWide telescope, complete with Harvard acclaim

Excerpts from the blog In showing off its WorldWide Telescope at the annual TechFest science fair Tuesday, Microsoft Research played a recording...

Seattle Times staff columnist

Excerpts from the blog

In showing off its WorldWide Telescope at the annual TechFest science fair Tuesday, Microsoft Research played a recording of Harvard astrophysicist Roy Gould saying the project will have "as profound an impact on the way we view the universe as Galileo's telescope."

The telescope is really cool and will make it easier and more fun for people around the world to explore the heavens from their desktops. It blends images gathered from telescopes around the world so you can explore the universe as if on a "magic carpet," Gould said.

You can be guided on your explorations by astronomers, or you can create and share your own tours, Gould explained on the recording, made at last week's TED conference.

When it becomes publicly available this spring, Microsoft's telescope will be a priceless learning tool. It's already working for a few lucky kids in Redmond, such as the children of Microsoft Research boss Rick Rashid.

The telescope may also be one of the best reasons yet to connect a PC to a big-screen display, or maybe even a projector that you can point at the ceiling.

But didn't Galileo's telescope work help convince the world that the planets don't actually revolve around Earth?

I'd like to know what huge misunderstanding Microsoft's telescope will correct. Maybe Gould meant it will convince the world that the universe doesn't actually revolve around Google.

A blog unplugged

Dare Obasanjo, the most fearless, nonanonymous Microsoft blogger, said Tuesday night that he's taking an "indefinite hiatus" from his online diary.

The Windows Live manager (and son of Nigeria's former president) kept his online diary going in various forms for seven years, including his internship at Microsoft.

I don't know where he found the time. In addition to running projects at work and building an open-source RSS tool as a hobby, Obasanjo thoroughly reported on developments in his corner of the tech industry, including remarkably balanced takes on competitors' products and events.

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A year ago I was surprised to run into Dare at Google's Kirkland offices, where he was among the handful of media types invited to interview Vint Cerf during a visit. I couldn't tell if it was a recruiting ploy or a nod to the quality and reach of Dare's blog.

I also used to regularly read the blog of Charlie Owen, Media Center program manager, which has gone intermittent since he reordered priorities a few months ago.

Maybe I'm missing them, but I haven't seen a lot of new personal blogs by Microsoft employees. Instead the energy seems to be going into product-team blogs.

Are Microsoft bloggers getting burned out? Maybe they're cutting back on personal blogs because they're working on new stuff that isn't bloggable yet. Like Ray Ozzie, who hasn't posted anything since August 2006.

Reaching the masses

Passing its two-year mark, Amazon Web Services has 330,000 developers registered, up 30,000 from the previous quarter, the company said Wednesday in a release. Among the marquee customers the release name-dropped are Nasdaq, The New York Times, SanDisk and RedHat.

An interesting tidbit: Bandwidth usage by the AWS computer cloud and S3 storage services during the fourth quarter of 2007 surpassed the usage of all of Amazon.com's global Web sites. That's during the holiday-shopping season.

One local company that has tinkered with AWS, but started out building on its own servers, is Seattle social music service iLike.

Separately, iLike also released impressive momentum statistics today.

More than 23 million people have now registered for the service, and more than 200,000 musicians are using its Universal Artist Dashboard to manage their online presence on social networks. The company claims that includes more than half of the top 500 music acts.

To keep it going, iLike is expanding to Europe and Latin America. It's also preparing to launch applications on MySpace and Orkut using Google's OpenSocial development platform.

It's probably not a coincidence that iLike issued its release just as rumblings picked up, again, about Facebook launching its own music service. The social network is where iLike gained critical mass after becoming the site's most widely used music application.

This material has been edited for print publication.

Brier Dudley's blog appears Thursdays. Reach him at 206-515-5687 or bdudley@seattletimes.com.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

About Brier Dudley
Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.
bdudley@seattletimes.com | 206-515-5687

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