In an expansion of their alliance, Microsoft and Toshiba said yesterday they plan to develop high-definition DVD players together, cross-license technologies...

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In an expansion of their alliance, Microsoft and Toshiba said yesterday they plan to develop high-definition DVD players together, cross-license technologies and cooperate in designing new models of mobile personal computers.

The deal was announced in Tokyo by Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates and Toshiba President Atsutoshi Nishida. It is a big win for the HD-DVD format in its competition against another technology called Blu-ray Disc, which is backed by Sony and Apple Computer, to become the world standard for next-generation DVD players.

Gates stopped short of calling the agreement exclusive, though he stressed he wanted to see HD-DVD become more widespread.

Nishida said it was unclear what effect the deal between the software giant and Japanese electronics maker will have on the format war.


New link for buyer, mortgage broker

HouseValues, a Kirkland company that connects home sellers and buyers to real-estate agents online, plans to announce today it intends to offer another pairing service.

The company, which went public six months ago, is launching a mortgage-lead service. Mortgage companies can pay anywhere from $149 to several thousands of dollars a month for a guaranteed number of leads on potential homebuyers who visit HouseValues’ partner Web site,

Potential homebuyers can enter information on to get e-mail updates on newly listed homes by a HouseValues real-estate agent who, under the new service, will also include a “get pre-qualified” option. This will link the visitor to a mortgage broker who will provide loan data.


Users to learn how to pull ad software

Bellevue-based 180solutions, which provides free content to its customers by subsidizing it with advertising, plans to announce today it will notify each of its 20 million users how to uninstall its software if they wish.

The company said the message will be sent in a pop-up notice and is part of an effort to ensure the customer has received proper disclosure and given informed consent.

The notices will go to those with 180search Assistant and Zango Search Assistant, telling users they receive an average of up to three ads a day and how to remove the software.

“By re-notifying everyone in our network, we ensure each user has received the proper disclosure and has provided informed consent,” said 180solutions’ CEO Keith Smith.


Carpenters union joins dissident bloc

Union leaders who govern the AFL-CIO voted yesterday to support President John Sweeney’s plans to boost organizing efforts and continue political activities for pro-labor candidates and policies, but leaders representing a coalition of five dissident unions voted against Sweeney’s proposals.

That coalition of unions challenging Sweeney picked up strength yesterday when the main national carpenters union joined the effort to challenge the AFL-CIO. The carpenters union broke away from the AFL-CIO in 2001.

After the meeting of the 54-member executive council, Sweeney met for about 90 minutes with leaders of the dissident group.

The dissident unions — the Teamsters, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), United Food and Commercial Workers, Unite Here and Laborers’ International Union — joined in mid-June in an alliance called the Change to Win Coalition.

“Things are moving in a positive direction,” Sweeney said later.

Teamsters President James Hoffa and SEIU President Andrew Stern declined to comment after the meeting.


SEC investigating expensing of options

IBM announced yesterday that the Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating how the company disclosed its methods for expensing employee stock options in the first quarter. The technology giant described the investigation as informal and said it was cooperating.

When IBM released its first-quarter earnings on April 14, it said employee stock options cut into earnings by 10 cents per share. The consensus analysts’ estimate was 14 cents a share.

Some analysts complained that IBM led them to believe the options-expensing costs would be higher so as to cushion the disappointing results IBM ended up posting.

When asked if the company had intentionally misled analysts in order to soften the impact of the relatively weak quarterly earnings, IBM spokesman Ed Barbini would not comment.

IBM shares fell 13 cents yesterday to close at $73.88, then fell another 88 cents after the probe was announced.


Maffei will earn $800,000 plus options

Oracle, the world’s third-largest software maker, will pay Greg Maffei, new chief financial officer and co-president, $800,000 a year and grant him options to purchase 4 million shares of Oracle common stock at $12.55.

Maffei, 45, was appointed chief financial officer Wednesday. He’s eligible for an $800,000 bonus in his first year, Oracle said in a filing yesterday. Maffei could receive a cash severance of $3.2 million if he is fired within two years, the filing said.

Maffei most recently was chairman and CEO of 360networks, a telecommunications company that emerged from bankruptcy in 2002. Before that he was chief financial officer at Microsoft.

Fannie Mae

Mortgage giant hires audit executive

Mortgage giant Fannie Mae, whose accounting is under investigation by federal regulators, said yesterday it has named a new chief audit executive from outside the company.

S. Jean Hinrichs, who is a certified internal auditor and fraud examiner with experience at a large investment firm and the Federal Reserve, will assume the job of senior vice president for internal audit next month, Fannie Mae announced. She will report directly to the board of directors’ audit committee.

Fannie Mae, the largest U.S. buyer of home mortgages, in December was ordered by the Securities and Exchange Commission to restate its earnings back to 2001, a correction that could reach an estimated $11 billion.


Still no verdict in Scrushy case

A federal jury failed to reach a verdict in the fraud trial of fired HealthSouth Chief Executive Richard Scrushy during a 20th day of deliberations yesterday and will return today for more work.

The panel has deliberated four days since the judge replaced a sick member with an alternate and told them to start over.

Prosecutors contend Scrushy directed a $2.7 billion earnings overstatement over seven years, but the defense blames Scrushy aides, including 15 former HealthSouth executives who pleaded guilty.


Media veteran to head TiVo

Digital video-recording company TiVo named veteran media executive Tom Rogers president and chief executive yesterday, tasking him with transforming the niche service into a mass-market player.

Rogers, the former CEO of media conglomerate Primedia and president of NBC Cable, replaces TiVo co-founder Mike Ramsay, who announced in January his departure as CEO after seven years.

TiVo, which enables TV viewers to save their favorite programming and skip commercials, has more than 3.3 million subscribers, but has yet to turn a profit since being founded in 1997.

Compiled from The Associated Press, Bloomberg News and Seattle Times staff