Bill Gates is used to Microsoft being on top. So his company's trailing position in Internet search is a relatively new experience. Here's what he said...

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Bill Gates is used to Microsoft being on top. So his company’s trailing position in Internet search is a relatively new experience.

Here’s what he said about it last week at advance08, a conference Microsoft held for advertisers.

“It’s fascinating for us, we have businesses like Mediaroom where we are completely alone, out in front, making the investment, changing the thing and there’s really no one to compare us to,” Gates said.

“You know, then we have maybe some things that are kind of in the middle where — like video games or phone software, where there’s lots of players and we’re very strong and part of what’s driving innovation.

“Then we have areas like search where we’re really an underdog. I have to say, it’s kind of fun to be an underdog. You know, it’s neat.”

Rocking advertisers

Microsoft rented out the Showbox and hired Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds to entertain the advertisers it had in town last week.

The venue was gussied up in flowing white curtains. Fancy glowing orbs sat on the tables and bars. Matthews, a superstar musician who is regularly seen walking around Green Lake or taking in the Fremont Solstice Parade, seemed impressed.

“You’re all very attractive,” he told the well-dressed crowd of advertising and media execs who were schmoozing and gulping down free drinks. “So you’ve got that going for you.”

“This looks like a dream,” he said a bit later. “I’m not sure I’ve had it yet.”

The intimate audience seemed split between people who hung on every note, not believing their good fortune, and those who couldn’t be bothered.

“That song ended a little prematurely,” Matthews said after applause from the crowd stepped on the last verse. “If you’re not familiar, you might not have noticed. If you are, you might say, ‘Typical.’ “

The clamor was louder when he played darker or newer material. But when he went back to uplifting singles from his earlier career, such as “Ants Marching,” Matthews and Reynolds won the crowd over.

“I’ve gotta have some songs with some levity in them,” Matthews said. “Gotta keep things humorous, know what I’m sayin’?”

View from elsewhere

In naming Seattle one of 12 Fast Cities where innovation and creativity thrive, the June issue of Fast Company magazine asks online: “Is the next Silicon Valley on Puget Sound?”

It goes on to note the high proportion of engineers in the area, the $1 billion in VC funds generated here and how Google is drawing tech startups to the Fremont neighborhood. That’s where the Silicon Valley giant has a relatively new facility. It also mentions the “art museum’s recent expansion” and Olympic Sculpture Park.

The admittedly brief blurb makes no mention, though, of the old standbys. You know, Microsoft,, Boeing.

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