Microsoft Gobbles Skype, Gamification’s Present and Future, Bill Gates on Clean Energy, & More in the Seattle-Area Tech Roundup

Microsoft’s blockbuster $8.5 billion deal to acquire Skype dominated headlines far beyond the Puget Sound region last week, raising all kinds of interesting implications for mobile computing, business communications, video games, and more. Many commenters were walloped by the sheer scope of Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) products that Skype could be plugged into, but in our initial report, we called out mobile and video as the two broad areas to watch.

Xconomy writers from around the country also weighed in with follow-up reports from different angles. Xconomy Boston’s Greg Huang sat down for an exclusive interview with Microsoft’s Qi Lu, president of Microsoft’s online services division. Skype won’t report to Lu, but he praised the power of bringing a big consumer brand under Microsoft’s umbrella. Lu also pointed to “powerful scenarios” in combining Skype with Windows Phone, Xbox Kinect, and the Lync messaging service on the business side.

In San Diego, Xconomy’s Bruce Bigelow had this Q&A with Bryan Hertz of Telcentris, a small California-based startup that makes a Skype competitor. Hertz pointed out that some of the initial mixed reaction might have to do with Skype’s upstart profile, including its roots in the music-sharing service Kazaa: “People saw Kazaa and then Skype as a way of ‘beating the system.’ Microsoft IS the system, so it’s easy to assume the worst.”

Here’s the rest of the news making headlines at Xconomy from the past week on the Seattle-area tech scene:

—Speaking of Microsoft, co-founder Bill Gates was on hand for an event from environmental nonprofit Climate Solutions focusing on the future of clean energy. As Luke reported, Gates said he was bullish on the science and business opportunities—but less optimistic about leadership from the government in setting carbon limits and paying for research and development. If Gates’ talk is up your alley, you should definitely check out our next power-packed Xconomy Seattle event, Separating Hype from Reality in Alternative Fuels, this Thursday.

—Xconomy San Francisco’s Wade Roush interviewed Dan Reed of Microsoft’s Extreme Computing Group—basically, the guy who’s in charge of figuring out what the future will hold for the world’s largest software company. Reed and Roush chatted about smart radios, data center design, artificial intelligence, and more—and all this was just a preview to today’s Beyond Mobile event in San Francisco, where Reed will join Bill Mark of SRI International, Larry Smarr of Calit2 and others for an in-depth discussion on the next 10 years of computing.

—Lest Microsoft steal all the headlines, we also had a couple of interesting items from the world of gamification—the drive to apply common video game features and experiences to a broader array of consumer life, from shopping to health and beyond. First up was BigDoor Media‘s announcement that it was partnering with Major League Baseball to bring game mechanics to the league’s live game-tracker site. Following that, we got an in-depth interview with Scott Dodson of Bobber Interactive, a Seattle startup that’s bringing game features to children’s finance. Dodson, a leading thinker on gamification, is optimistic about what the future holds—but he’s also worried that too much use of shallow elements could saturate the market and bring the whole thing down.

—Finally, a pair of great guest posts from people in the Seattle-area technology community. First up was Kal Raman of GlobalScholar, who wrote about the opportunity that entrepreneurs in the region have to bring innovation and data-driven solutions to the country’s education system. We also cross-posted this piece from Eric Koester of Zaarly, who recounted his recent trip to Washington, D.C., to speak about on the importance of maintaining a strong ecosystem for startups.

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