Microsoft was busy last week playing down Xbox chief Robbie Bach's role as the company's new digital music guru. The Wall Street Journal...

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Microsoft was busy last week playing down Xbox chief Robbie Bach’s role as the company’s new digital music guru.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Chief Executive Steve Ballmer has quietly tapped Bach to revamp Microsoft’s digital music strategy — even invoking the word “quietly” to give the sense that something important and secretive is now being exposed.

Not at all, Bach said in an interview last week. Bach co-chairs an executive committee focused on consumer strategies. “This is really just a continuation of the work I’ve been doing,” he said. “It got marked as a point in time because the Wall Street Journal decided to write something.”

The write-up nevertheless fueled speculation among video gamers that perhaps the Xbox will be more tied in with digital music than Microsoft had previously hinted at.

Our bet is that in the short term, the company will upgrade the detachable hard drive in the upcoming Xbox 360, making it a digital music player that works with the subscription music service Microsoft also has planned.

Amazon’s content is on its way to becoming a content company, said Entertainment Weekly creator Jeff Jarvis after learning Amazon is producing and airing a concert for its 10th anniversary featuring Bob Dylan and Norah Jones.

Amazon was in the distribution business, Jarvis wrote on his blog, called BuzzMachine, but through its customer relationships and trusted brand it can become a content conduit. “Sometime soon,” he wrote, “someone will chose to publish via Amazon directly to the public and skip the middleman formerly known as the publisher.”

Bill and Jimmy?

Bono isn’t the only famous musician Bill Gates has on his buddy list, apparently. Bill is also one of the contacts stored on Jimmy Buffett’s cellphone, says a report in the Palm Beach Post.

A busboy found the Sony Ericsson phone outside a Cuban restaurant in late May. He told a Post columnist that he and his pals got stoned and searched through the list, and one may have made a prank call to Jimmy Carter.

Other contacts stored on the phone included Bill Clinton, Al Gore, George Clooney, Michael Douglas and Harrison Ford and country singers Clint Black, George Strait and Alan Jackson.

The Secret Service was called because former presidents were involved, and the busboy eventually turned over the phone and its memory card.

Has Gates developed a taste for margaritas and cheeseburgers in paradise? Maybe, but the connection between Gates and Buffett is probably their mutual friend in Omaha, Warren Buffett.

Get earplugs ready

Boeing‘s Connexion unit said it would start making cellphone service available to passengers as early as next year, according to a Reuters story.

Though nearly everyone seems opposed to the service — from flight attendants to consumers — Boeing thinks it will be worth the investment. A spokeswoman said she expected there would be certain “quiet periods” on flights, which would help mitigate concerns.

Connexion is likely to break even in 2008, the spokeswoman added.

Improving lives

A survey released last week said 42 percent of executives believe employees will be working more hours in the next 10 to 15 years. Nearly 90 percent of execs said telecommuting will increase in that same time period.

Digital download deal

Chalk one up for Microsoft, and not Apple Computer. New York Public Library said last week it will make hundreds of audio books available for digital download at its Web site. None work on an iPod because they use Microsoft’s copyright protection software. The files are being designed to stop working 21 days after being stored on a computer.

Sure, one library doesn’t make this a qualified trend, but other libraries are likely watching how this unfolds.

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