Excerpts from the blog The year is young, but so far the Seattle tech scene's biggest bash of 2008 was Tuesday night's open house/job fair...

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Excerpts from the blog

The year is young, but so far the Seattle tech scene’s biggest bash of 2008 was Tuesday night’s open house/job fair/rave at Google’s new Fremont office.

Companies looking for tech talent should have come with a big net. Engineers were cramming into the place like salmon at a fish ladder. At least 625 registered early and more lined up for sign-ups at the door.

Surrounded by flashing disco lights and thumping music in the mostly unfilled first floor overlooking the Ship Canal, they clutched illuminated Google Seattle cups and crowded around demo stations, snack tables and potential new bosses.

Current and former University of Washington computer-science profs were holding court. I talked briefly to Ed Lazowska, who’s still at the UW, and Brian Bershad, who left to run the new Google office, but there was a stream of well-wishers, schmoozers and former students saying hello.

Amazon.com may be moving into new digs at the other end of Lake Union, but there were still a ton of Amazonians at the event. I tried to say hi to AWS evangelist Jeff Barr, who has been candid about Google’s efforts to recruit him in the past, but he seemed to be constantly surrounded by bioinformatics types.

Microsoft was well-represented, as was just about every other tech company in the region.

Our colleague Ben Romano reported from the more staid shindig Google threw for local VIPs in the morning. As he noted, there’s about 100 Googlers in Fremont, which includes about 75 in engineering and 25 in an adjacent sales office.

Some additional details:

• There are about 10 dogs “working” at the Fremont office and so far there are few compatibility issues.

• There is indeed a Googler named Jeremy Pack working on Google Pack, the company’s bundle of PC applications. But he works in Kirkland, where the Pack was hatched, and joined after the project started. I was hoping he’d named it.

• Unlike the Kirkland office, Google’s Fremont outpost will have an in-house kitchen eventually.

• Google projects a loose and freewheeling spirit, but it seems pretty interested in seasoned project managers from Seattle’s more mature tech companies. They are being courted heavily, as well as engineers and fresh university talent.

Small, smaller

As usual, one of the most surprising things out of Macworld this year is the coverage.

There was so much expectation that Apple would introduce an ultramobile PC that some respected news outlets are calling Apple’s new laptop an ultramobile.

Don’t get me wrong — the MacBook Air looks fantastic, it will be easier to carry than heavier laptops and it will breathe fresh air into the PC market.

But it’s ultrathin, not ultramobile. If it has a 13-inch screen, a full keyboard and a clamshell case, it’s a laptop. Even Apple’s calling it a “notebook” computer, which is its word for laptop.

Am I off-base here?

Until the reporters fired up their MacBooks in San Francisco, “ultramobile” referred to handheld computers with screens up to about 7 inches — basically the machines that fall between the iPhone and small laptops.

Intel, which builds the engines used in Apple’s new machines, initially framed the ultramobile category as devices with 5-inch to 7-inch displays. Last year it made that category even more specific, by adding a new category — “mobile Internet device” — referring to devices with 4-inch to 6-inch displays.

Microsoft and Intel used to have high expectations for UMPCs — they expected 100 million to be sold in 2008. The takeoff hasn’t happened yet, in part because the devices have been somewhat eclipsed by Internet-capable phones, such as Apple’s iPhone.

It would be interesting to know whether Apple is still developing the rumored touch-screen ultramobile. That’s a category that desperately needs some fresh air and Steve Jobs’ marketing genius, but maybe Apple decided there’s not big enough market for the purse-sized machines.

Or maybe Apple’s stuck like all the other OEMs waiting for new hardware, such as Intel’s Menlow platform, that they need to build tiny computers that are reasonably priced and have enough power and battery life to finally make ultramobiles a must-have device.

This material has been edited for print publication.

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