Is MSN Vice President Yusuf Mehdi getting a promotion, now that Microsoft's Web portal is finally turning a profit?

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Is MSN Vice President Yusuf Mehdi getting a promotion, now that Microsoft‘s Web portal is finally turning a profit?

Chief Executive Steve Ballmer introduced Mehdi as a senior vice president on stage Wednesday at the company’s Strategic Account Summit for MSN advertisers.

Ballmer may have simply misspoken. But he was pretty precise later in their presentation, correcting Mehdi’s sports references and catching a typo during his demo.

While showing off MSN search technology, Mehdi pretended to be a college basketball enthusiast looking for tournament statistics. He initially typed in the wrong keyword, drawing a weird response and a chuckle from his boss.

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“Who had the most pants in March Madness?” Ballmer roared. “That’s an interesting question, I’m sure. I didn’t know they kept track.”

At least Mehdi may have scored points by handing the boss a one-liner.


Online seniors



Based on a phone survey, about 26 percent of Americans 65 or older had Internet access in January, up from 22 percent 10 months earlier, in March 2004.

Source: Pew Internet & American Life

Try a little snarkiness

Panel discussions involving chief executives often have as much bite as buttermilk. But occasionally a comment can provoke a “did he really say that?” double-take.

Consider the panel during the final day of last week’s Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association conference in New Orleans. The panel featured the top execs from the major wireless carriers, except for the noticeable absence of Verizon Wireless CEO Denny Strigl. Of course, John Zeglis, the CEO of AT&T Wireless before it was acquired by Cingular Wireless, wasn’t there as well.

Maybe their absence allowed the panelists to feel free to let loose on the two. Tim Donahue, Nextel Communications‘ chief, was perhaps the most vocal. When his microphone shrieked from feedback, he blamed Strigl. When the topic of network quality came up, he said if you don’t keep up the network, you’ll lose customers. Look at what happened to AT&T Wireless, he said — they “let their network go to hell.”

One giant step

Speaking of CTIA, the New Orleans convention center floor is said to equal 15-½ football fields and stretches three-quarters of a mile.

By the end of the three-day conference, attendees had clocked some serious miles, and Seattle-based Mobliss was there to count each step.

Mobliss and Samsung offered attendees pedometers to keep track of their steps.

Mobliss, a wireless content provider, then sent attendees trivia questions via cellphones. Correct answers won a chance for a restaurant gift certificate.

On an identity trek

Paul Allen’s money is helping a Massachusetts company introduce a new Web service that works like a commercial version of Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia that can be edited by anyone.

Eliyon Technologies, which is backed by Allen’s Vulcan Capital, is a search engine that creates automatic summaries of people from information it finds on the Web. The company says it has built 25 million summaries on individuals and has dozens of large corporate customers.

Today it is coming out with a product called ZoomInfo, billed as a tool to let people manage their Web identities the way they do credit reports. They can add or correct their own computer-generated dossiers or get debriefed on prospective dates.

Here at the Download offices, we tried to help Allen improve his own Web identity by having fun with his résumé. We were able to add the job title Star Fleet Mission Director and language fluency in Romulan and Klingon to his profile.

Strangely enough, these changes didn’t show up when we refreshed the browser.

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.