Tech Watch: Music on Facebook; Bill Gates's Rumored Think Tank; Amazon's Q3 Earnings Bad, But Good

Facebook may launch music service to rival MySpace's; Bill Gates working on a Think Tank; and Amazon posts earnings just short of Q3 targets.

Is Music Facebook's Savior?

If it's one thing that MySpace has over Facebook, it's music. MySpace Music has no real successful equivalent on Facebook, and the latter company's path to profitability looks unlikely without some kind of tunes application as a part of the strategy. If Facebook ever hopes to go public, it may have to sidle up to one of its developers and ink a music deal.

So it's no surprise that rumors are afloat in the New York Post, and now The New York Times, that the social network may be in talks with four companies to begin its foray into music: iLike, imeem, LaLa, and Rhapsody. The Times also speculates that the company could be vetting partners in an effort to get a better idea of how to launch its own in-house music service, though that seems unlikely.

The article also reports that while few details about Facebook's incipient music plans are available, it is known with relative certainty that the new service would integrate organically with existing Facebook features, such as musician fan pages and News Feed, to include individual users' playlists and outlets for music purchasing.

Tech pundits are abuzz, too, over a new feature launched by Facebook called Action Links. What the feature does is less important than the screenshot example shown on the site, which features a user buying a Beatles album on something called "FBM." Facebook Music? Only time will tell.

Limiting Facebook's plan is the company's apparent unwillingness to deal directly with record labels to license music. That became apparent after Facebook shut down a third-party app that allowed users to upload and stream songs. Perhaps ILike or imeem, which feature a wide range of music applications, decent user interfaces, freestanding sites of their own, and plug-ins for audio software will be the most organic partners. It should be noted that iLike licenses its streaming music from Rhapsody.

What's Bill Gates Up To?

The company Bill Gates bequeathed to Steve Ballmer now faces one of its biggest publicity crises to date, with OEMs publicly admitting to skipping from Windows XP to Windows 7, the public decrying Vista ads, and Apple ads ever on the attack. Yet Microsoft's founder may be keeping his distance, as he promised he would in June when he announced he was retiring from full-time Microsoft responsibilities to pursue philanthropy.

The Redmond whiz kid is now affiliated with an organization called BGC3, which is said to be the moniker given to Gates' private, non-Microsoft and non-philanthropic office space. According to the Seattle Post Intelligencer, Gates may be pursuing a think-tank services operation. That tidbit was garnered from the organization's application for trademark, which also stipulates that BGC3 will be non-commercial.

The organization applied for trademark in late September, but other details have not yet come to light.

Amazon Announces Q3 Earnings

Amazon could be doing a lot worse. While a lot of its fellow NASDAQ companies are floundering and resorting to layoffs, the everything-retailer reported earnings just shy of targets. Still, Amazon shares dropped 13% on the news in after-hours trading Wednesday.

The company reported $4.26 billion in revenue for Q3, while forecasts had predicted $4.48 billion. As a result, Amazon tempered Q4 forecasts in anticipation of a weaker than usual holiday sales season. The company predicts between $6 and $7 billion for that quarter. Amazon's net income rose a strong 48% to $118 million dollars for the third quarter, which elevated the company's share price $0.27.

In a statement, founder and CEO Jeff Bezos said, "We remain relentlessly focused on delivering value to customers through lower prices, improved selection and our free shipping offers, including Amazon Prime." He also trumpeted customers' savings on Amazon's reduced and free-fare shipping options.

The company also reported that the device that many predicted would fail – the e-reader, Kindle – has continued to grow in sales, as have electronics sales and foreign sales, likely due to a weak US dollar.

Amazon also reported that it had acquired PC game-maker Reflexive Entertainment for an unnamed sum. Reflexive's site offers free gaming downloads, tips, tricks, reviews and other information.

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