Powerset as Antigen: Can Google Resist Microsoft’s New Threat

August 20, 2008

I found the write ups about Satya Nadella’s observations about Microsoft’s use of the Powerset technology in WebProNews, Webware.com, and Business Week magnetizing. Each of these write ups converged on a single key idea; namely, Microsoft will use the Powerset / Xerox PARC technology to exploit Google’s inability to deal with tailoring a search experience to deliver a better search experience a user. The media attention directed at a conference focused on generating traffic to a Web site without regard to the content on that site, its provenance, or its accuracy is downright remarkable. Add together the assertion that Powerset will hobble the Google, and I may have to extend my anti-baloney shields another 5,000 kilometers.

Let’s tackle some realities:

  1. To kill Google, a company has to jump over, leap frog, or out innovate Google. Using technology that dates from the 1990s, poses scaling challenges, and must be “hooked” into the existing Microsoft infrastructure is a way to narrow a gap, but it’s not enough to do much to wound, impair, or kill Google. If you know something about the Xerox PARC technology that I’m missing, please, tell me. I profiled Inxight Software in one of my studies. Although different from Xerox PARC technology used by Powerset, it was close enough to identify some strengths and weaknesses. One issue is the computational load the system imposes. Maybe I’m wrong but scaling is a big deal when extending “context” to lots of users.
  2. Microsoft is slipping further behind Google. The company is paying users, and it is still losing market share. Read my short post on this subject here. Even if the data are off by an order of magnitude, Microsoft is not making headway in the Web search market share.
  3. Cost is a big deal. Microsoft appears to have unlimited resources. I’m not so sure. If Google’s $1 of infrastructure investment buys 4X the performance that a Microsoft $1 does, Microsoft has an infrastructure challenge that could cost more than even Microsoft can afford.

So, there are computational load issues. There are cost issues. There are innovation issues. There are market issues. I must be the only person on the planet who is willing to assert that small scale search tweaks will not have the large scale effects Microsoft needs.

Forget the assertion that Business Week offers when its says that Google is moving forward. Google is not moving forward; Google is morphing into a different type of company. “Moving forward” only tells part of the story. I wonder if I should extend my shields of protection to include filtering baloney about search emanating from a conference focused on tricking algorithms into putting a lousy site at the top of a results list.

Agree? Disagree? I’m willing to learn if my opinions are scrambled.

Stephen Arnold, August 20, 2008

Comments

7 Responses to “Powerset as Antigen: Can Google Resist Microsoft’s New Threat”

  1. Catherine H van Zuylen on August 20th, 2008 1:03 pm

    Inxight’s implementation of the Xerox PARC code has substantial benefits in both speed and breadth/depth of coverage over other implementations of Xerox code by vendors such as Powerset.

    In addition to performing substantial ongoing in-house lexical and other work to improve accuracy and coverage, Inxight has done substantial subsequent optimization of the finite state machines and other “innards” of the system.

    This significantly reduces computational load — very important to the billions of classified messages that Inxight processes in the intelligence space, as well as to publishers like Factiva that implement the Inxight technology.

  2. vitor on August 23rd, 2008 11:26 am

    “The company is paying users”

    They don’t, or I’d use LiveSearch as much as possible. CashBack rebates are from the advertisers not Microsoft. If you go through CashBack to an advertiser’s website and make a purchase, you will get rebate from that advertiser. If you simply navigate through it without doing a thing, you won’t receive any payment. That’s why it does little to boost LiveSearch’s traffic, imo.

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