One more thing… a real keyboard for a smartphone.

Robert Solomon has already made a name for himself in tech. If the name doesn’t sound familiar, then perhaps the company he founded, Datadesk Technologies, rings a bell. It created one of the bestselling Mac accessories of all time – the MAC-101 keyboard.

Now, Robert and his son Cody are about to revolutionize the smartphone market as well through their new company, SoloMatrix. The company has built a prototype of a new type of iPhone case, one that has a flippable keyboard built right into it.

The touchscreen keyboard has always been problematic for many users. SoloMatrix’s new Spike keyboards are the first of their kind. You don’t even need to connect it via Bluetooth. And because it doesn’t require a battery, it can be built right into the phone’s protective case.

Marketed under the Spike brand, the new TypeSmart keyboards are supposed to make it easier and more organic to type messages, even if you’re wearing gloves. The keyboard cases range from $35 to $60 and pre-orders are already being accepted on SoloMatrix’s website.

The company’s in pre-production right now on their new line Spike keyboards. The iPhone 4 version is slated to be released in February with the iPhone 5 model not far behind.

The new keyboard design has already created a sensation. It has received rave reviews from several tech blogs and publications and was a finalist for the most innovative product at the Consumer Electronic Association’s line show in New York City. The company netted more than the $75,000 it had sought on Kickstarter so that tooling and production could begin.

Microsoft’s next data center is off the grid.

Sewage gas may be driving some data centers of the future, at least if Microsoft’s research into sustainable data centers pays off. The Redmond-based company will begin testing the concept at a wastewater treatment plant in Wyoming sometime in 2013. A biogas-powered fuel cell connected to the plant will run a mobile data center as a proof of concept.

The Data Plant is the first data center that doesn’t have a carbon footprint and will run independently from the established power grid. The hope is that the center will be the first of many smaller data centers that can recycle common waste products to power cloud services in communities. The $5.5 million plan will study new methods for providing economical power from biogas, which is a by-product of wastewater treatment plants, landfills and farms.

Find out more about Microsoft’s innovative new data center concept.

Sealy makes its bed in Lacey.

Sealy® has announced that it is opening its newest mattress manufacturing plant in Lacey in April 2013. When ready, the new plant will provide the area with more than 100 good paying jobs.

Washington’s Department of Commerce, the Thurston County EDC and Sealy put together the deal, helping the company find the right location. The EDC did an extensive location analysis for Sealy, working closely with the company to find just the right locale for the new plant.

Because of the tight time schedule, the company hopes to start hiring in the next several weeks.

“We are pleased to welcome Sealy’s new manufacturing facility to the state of Washington.  The newly created jobs will bolster the local economy in Lacey, said Leigh Felton, Assistant Director of the Business Services Division at Washington State Department of Commerce. “Sealy is a world class company and we are happy to have them join the family of companies who find Washington a great place to do business.”

The new plant is located in the former Spring Air factory on Willamette Drive. The new facility will manufacture top end mattresses for sale throughout the U.S.

New acquisition fits Starbucks’ plan to a tea.

 

Starbucks has announced plans to do for tea what it did for espresso 30 years ago, and according to CEO and President Howard Shultz, Teavana is the perfect fit. Starbucks purchased the 300-store chain this week, planning to capitalize on its extensive knowledge of tea, broad offerings and commitment to quality that makes it a perfect fit with Starbuck’s brand and culture.

The acquisition gives Starbucks a solid foothold in the $40 billion global market for tea. The company plans to expand the brand’s footprint, extending it into neighborhoods as well as area malls and consumer products. The company has also ventured into international markets, opening its first store in the Middle East. The purchase comes close on the heels of another major acquisition in the tea market, Tazo, which opened its first store in Seattle’s University Village this week.

The company hopes that it can rapidly expand Teavana using its existing infrastructure, purchasing power and store design and operations experience, which propelled the Washington State based company into the rarified realm of “business legend.”

Starbucks paid $630 million in cash for the company and the deal is expected to close by year’s end, pending regulatory approval.

You can find out more about Teavana on the company’s website.

 

Read more about the Teavana acquisition at Bevnet.

A pepperoni-powered expansion for Oberto.

Nashville may be known for country music, but it’s about to get a new claim to fame – the first expansion by the Washington State’s Oberto Company.

The new facility will join its kissin’ cousin in Kent, Washington, where the company currently produces all its snack products. The company has been a Northwest favorite since 1918.

The company needed to expand to meet growing demand for its products nationally. The decision to create all-natural versions of its products has caused sales to double in the last few years with no let up in sight. In addition to the Oh Boy, Oberto! brand, the company also sells Lowrey’s Meat Snacks and Pacific Gold Beef Jerky.

The new facility will allow the company to continue to produce its products in the U.S., something Oberto committed to doing in 2010 after a brief flirtation with overseas production, said Tom Ennis, CEO. All Oberto products are now made in the U.S.A.

Since the company’s products are focused on being all-natural, proximity of production to markets is essential and the new Nashville plant allows Oberto to continue to expand its presence east of the Mississippi.

Oberto was started by an Italian immigrant family in pursuit of the American dream and the family is still involved in the business as well as the community. Oberto is a big sponsor of local teams and events, which often feature a visit by Art Oberto, the 85-year-old son of the company’s founder.

Don’t worry, they are supposed to do that.

Boeing’s next big thing is really big – wings for the 777X that will be as long as 223 feet, necessitating a design change that will allow the wings to fold up on the ground so that it can more easily fit into existing airport terminals. Yes, innovation is alive and well in Washington State aerospace.This concept was actually considered years ago for the plane, but the new composite wings, similar to the 787 Dreamliner, are much longer than other plane wings, 9 feet longer than the 747. The folding wings will make the new version of the 777 instantly recognizable at airports worldwide.Find out more about the new wingtip design in The Seattle Times article.

UW students “waste” no time printing out a boat.

A team of enterprising University of Washington students have managed to create a large-format 3-D printer that can turn shredded plastic waste into life-sized prototypes and products. One of the first things they printed was a boat made of recycled milk jugs (about 250) to enter in the Milk Carton Boat Race on Greenlake.

The printer can use any recycled plastic and the prototype was built out of salvaged pieces from the UW’s machine shop as well as a plasma cutter and drill motor. The printer can be built for about $3,000 and the students plan to create a business from their creation, believing there is a huge market for their “printed” products, particularly their design for compostable toilets for use in third world countries.

Check out their story in The Seattle Times.

Culture of innovation brings new and old together.

It’s not often that old meets new in the business world. But here in Washington, that type of innovation is in our nature every single day.

Brown & Haley, a Northwest institution celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, has joined forces with Precept wine, one of the major players in the Washington wine industry. Together, they have created a new dessert wine, Almond Roca Cream.Almond Roca Cream took 2 ½ years for the companies to perfect the blend, going from a red wine that tasted like the famed candy to a unique, creamy dessert wine. I became available in Washington State in October and retails for $14.99.

Brown & Haley is one of the biggest success stories in the state, creating Almond Roca in 1923. Today, the company exports 40% of its sweet products to other countries, making it one of Washington’s major exporters. Precept Wines was founded in 2003 and is the largest privately owned wine company in the Northwest.

New wine research center studies sensory properties.

If you’ve ever described wine as having tobacco, cherry or earth nuances, then you know the importance of all the senses in enjoying a glass of wine.

Helping Washington’s 800 wineries improve their flavor profiles will soon be the work of a new research lab on Washington State University’s Richland campus. The $15 million Wine Science Center is planned for completion by 2015 and should give Washington State’s multi-billion dollar wine industry a leg up in the market, bringing out the flavors that savvy wine drinkers look for in a good bottle of wine.

Liberty Bottles – Made in the USA (and Washington).

If you’ve been searching for a rugged, eco-friendly sports bottle for your outdoor adventures, check out Liberty Bottle Works. Based in Union Gap, the company produces water bottles made of recycled aluminum.REI liked them so much they ordered a half million bottles. Amazon and Whole Foods have followed suit. The company employs 32 full-time employees, including engineers, chemists and programmers. Sales were $1.4 million in 2011 and are expected to be $3 to $4 million in 2012.

For more information, visit Liberty Bottle Works.