Wag.com, Facebook, Skype, Iota, Moai: The 1-Minute Week in Seattle Tech News

A short holiday week still left us with plenty of good tech news to chew over in the Puget Sound region. Here’s the quick version of the headlines and deep dives from the past seven days here at Xconomy Seattle, from big players and VCs to startups and researchers:

—Cue the circa-2000 sock puppet jokes—Amazon.com (NASDAQ: AMZN) subsidiary Quidsi debuted Wag.com, a new online portal for pet products. Quidsi, which was acquired by Amazon in November for $500 million, already operates sites like Diapers.com and Soap.com. Amazon, of course, owned about a third of Pets.com, whose microphone-wielding doggie puppet mascot became a much-lampooned symbol of the dot-com bust. A few days after bringing us that news, Xconomy New York’s Arlene Weintraub wrapped up what looks like a flurry of recent pet-related tech tidbits.

—Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg made the “awesome” product announcement he alluded to during a recent visit to Facebook’s Seattle office, bringing up Skype CEO Tony Bates to show off the new video-calling feature embedded in the world’s largest social network. The Facebook side of the work was done mostly in Seattle, with just one full-time engineer in charge (he did have some part-time help). That would be Philip Su, who sported the Space Needle-logo Facebook Seattle T-shirt as he gave the new Skype feature a test run during the news conference.

—On the startup side, I offered this look at what Seattle’s Iota is planning for the next-generation consumer RFID sector. Iota’s team is made up of T-Mobile veterans who want to get fun, fashionable non-phone mobile devices into the hands of the roughly two-thirds of Americans who are still packing around feature phones—especially teens. Iota’s plan is to get ahead of the Googles of the world in deploying a fast, easy, cheap network of RFID tags that can be read through “near-field communication” technology.

—Seattle mobile game startup Zipline revealed that its Moai platform, which lets developers quickly build and host mobile games, was being used to develop the first game for Bungie Aerospace—the new mobile label from the makers of the Halo game franchise. Moai is based around Lua, a common programming language for games, and offers a single open-source platform for both the front-end and the infrastructure of a mobile game. Jordan Weisman’s Harebrained Schemes imprint is using Moai to develop stealthy title “Crimson” for Bungie Aerospace.

—Over in Boston, Xconomy’s Greg Huang got a look at what the gang at Microsoft’s New England Research and Development Center have been up to for the past three years. It’s one of several R&D labs around the world for Redmond, WA-based Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT), but the details of just what they’re cooking up behind the doors of the NERD haven’t really been aired until now.

—Xconomy’s Bruce Bigelow checked in from our San Diego office with this report on a pair of studies gauging the health of the venture capital industry in 2011. As Bruce wrote, the surveys—from Dow Jones, and Thomson Reuters/National Venture Capital Association—show that VC fundraising is up, but the kitty is split between fewer funds. That means the industry is contracting around the name-brand funds out there.

—Finally, a trio of quick financing updates from the Seattle tech scene: Zillow amended its IPO paperwork to add an estimated share price range of $12-$14; compensation data provider PayScale raised $7 million in VC to expand sales and marketing; and mobile security software company Finsphere raised another $1.75 million from undisclosed investors.

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