Is Bill Gates getting a public-relations makeover? That's what some are suggesting after Gates' visit to Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show. The Microsoft chairman gave...

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Is Bill Gates getting a public-relations makeover? That’s what some are suggesting after Gates’ visit to Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show.



The Microsoft chairman gave his first interview to a blog, Gizmodo, at the show and agreed to be photographed in bed with an Apple laptop computer to get some laughs during his keynote speech. He even hung out with a couple who won a “meet a celebrity” contest sponsored by Swatch (he was the celebrity).



His actions led CNET News.com commentator Jeff Pelline to suggest that Gates has lightened up, aged and has his children to help put things in perspective.



That may all be true, but perhaps Microsoft’s omnipresent public-relations team had a hand in this as well.



Time will tell if the CES-ification of Gates is permanent, or if what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.



iPodmania


Apple Computer‘s marketing department has some nerve. The company last week unveiled a $99 digital music player that has no screen, no radio and no ability to manage playlists — the kiss of death in a player by any other maker.




















Internet time


In a recent survey, the average Internet user spent three hours online, and about a third of that online time occurred while at work.



Source: Stanford Center for the Quantitative Study of Society





But Apple put its cool stamp on it, touted its ability to shuffle songs — something just about every digital music player can do nowadays — and named it the iPod Shuffle.



The bold rollout had rivals shaking their heads in disbelief. Sim Wong Hoo, the chief executive of Creative Technology, told Channel NewsAsia that the industry will laugh at the iPod Shuffle.



“It’s worse than the cheapest Chinese player,” he said. “Even the cheap, cheap Chinese brand today has display and has FM.”



Eyes wide shut


Bellevue-based 180solutions said last week it was welcomed into the Consortium of Anti-Spyware Technology vendors (COAST), which is committed to raising awareness of the dangers of the pesky program that is typically unknowingly downloaded by users.




In the past, 180solutions has been accused of being a provider of spyware, or sometimes adware, which displays ads and tracks Web-browsing habits.



“Programs from 180solutions monitor users’ activities and show targeted advertisements,” said Benjamin Edelman, a critic of spyware and a doctoral candidate in economics at Harvard University and a student at Harvard Law School.



But 180solutions says all of that is behind it since aligning with COAST and after it substantially modified its software. The changes made to the software mostly revolve around how a user gives consent to downloading it.



“The company has demonstrated its desire to adhere to COAST’s high level of standards,” said Trey Barnes, COAST’s executive director.



So, if 180solutions changed its software to comply with the organization, does that mean it was previously a developer of spyware or adware?



No, says the company. It never considered what it was developing as spyware or adware; it was always referred to itself as “sponsorware.”



On the record


New business: LYNX Medical Systems in Bellevue will provide Yale-New Haven Hospital with LYNX emergency-room documentation and revenue-management software.




New products: WatchGuard Technologies of Seattle launched Firebox X Edge Wireless security appliances.



Financials: Ecuity, a Bellevue communications-services company, said revenues from its V-Tone VoIP telephone service rose 34.3 percent from November to December.



Download, a column of news bits, observations and miscellany, is gathered by The Seattle Times technology staff.



We can be reached at 206-464-2265 or biztech@seattletimes.com.