Forbes on Powerset
June 19, 2008
Forbes Magazine has an interesting article about Powerset, Chris Taylor’s “The Next Search Frontier: Just Ask Your Question“. I often have difficulty locating information on the Forbes’ Web site. Sometimes I grow frustrated with the pop up ads and page latency, so snag this article quickly.)
The key point in the article for me was this statement:
Powerset’s main asset is a partnership with PARC, the Palo Alto research center that incubated the computer mouse and the laser printer. In 2005, Pell discovered that PARC researchers had been working for 30 years on turning English into software code. Pell promptly licensed PARC’s research and hired the top scientists in the field, starting with Powerset co-founder Lorenzo Thione.
Xerox PARC (now simply PARC — it’s officially a subsidiary company of Xerox) has been an innovator for many years. But my experience has been that some of its better ideas are difficult to commercialize and convert into major revenue winners. Inxight Software, a PARC spin out, gained some market success and was acquired by Business Objects, which in turn was acquired by SAP. Powerset’s tie up with PARC will be another opportunity to convert ideas into revenue.
I am accustomed to formulating queries with Boolean ANDs and NOTs. Typing questions is too much work for me. With the average query creeping up to 2.3 words on major public search engines, the idea that a well formed question will revolutionize search seems unlikely.
Natural language processing, like semantic and linguistics mechanisms, may be best suited for work behind the scenes, not in front of the user.
Stephen Arnold, June 19, 2008