Microsoft – Yahoo: Just a Rumor

November 30, 2008

The London Times pumped up traffic to its Web site with its report that Microsoft was going to buy Yahoo’s search unit for billions. Reuters, on the other hand, posted “Microsoft Yahoo Deal Total Fiction” and cited the Web log “All Things Digital.” You can read the Reuters’ article here. Sitting in rainy London with a flakey Internet connection, I have no clue what’s going on. I find it hard to believe that the London Times would get a story completely wrong. I was curious about Carl Icahn’s increasing his stake in the rudderless Yahoo. Nothing about Microsoft’s and Yahoo’s interests are stable. The one fixed point in this drama is the fact that Google enjoys a commanding lead in Internet search. Maybe Google tipped the Times of London to watch the Redmond  giant and the Yahoo dwarf react?

Stephen Arnold, Novmeber 30, 2008

Concept Searching

November 30, 2008

Concept Searching Inc. offers a suite of horizontal search and classification products with the goal of delivering critical precision and recall. They’re moving beyond keyword identification and traditional taxonomy approaches. As the company’s tagline “Retrieval Just Got Smarter” suggests, the products use compound term processing to manage unstructured content. The concept extraction improves access to unstructured information so companies can better leverage data. What’s useful is that their cross-platform products, a search program, a classifier, a taxonomy manager, and SQL, are fully integrated with Microsoft SharePoint. There’s no need for a separate index, and the suite respects preset SharePoint security. Features can be integrated or delivered in pieces, and system access is administered using standard SharePoint administrative tools. Some of these functions were among the most popular in the SurfRay Ontolica product which is now long in the tooth. Perhaps Concept Searching will benefit from what seems to be a growing demand for SharePoint tools.

Jessica Brather, November 30, 2008

Google: The Rudolph Valentino Tactic

November 30, 2008

I received a couple of inputs about Bebo’s beating up Google. You can read more about the dust up here. As I was thinking about the implications of a former Google describing her former employer in language usually associated with Hollywood films like those starring Freddy Krueger, I saw two unrelated news items. Let me highlight these for you and then draw a parallel with an icon of seduction.

rudy2-02 copy

The Valentino like charm helped with charm and suggestions rewards for effort expended.

The first news item appeared in Library Journal here. The story by Andrew Albanese was “Google Book Deal Gets Preliminary Court Approval; More Boosters Emerge.” For me the most important portion of the write up was the information under the subhead “More Support Emerges”. I understood that publishers were not too happy with Google, and it was a toss up about the feelings of authors, who are never happy where publishers are involved. As an author, I like my publishers when their checks clear the bank and I actually get the money I am owed. Here’s the salient sentence in my opinion was in the form of a quote attributed to David Lammy, the minister of state for higher reduction and intellectual property in the UK:

“The agreement is one of a mounting number of recent examples where business and rights holders have taken the initiative and struck deals that have the potential to streamline the administration of copyright in the digital age,” Lammy wrote. Although the deal—at present—only applies to the United States, Lammy envisioned greater implications.

I concluded that happiness is, like the rosy fingertips of dawn, creeping over portions of the ethereal world of dead tree publishing.

The second news item shifts the medium from paper (ergo, dead trees) to a less ritzy part of the intellectual landscape–television. The story, a news item in essence, appeared in the Guardian’s Media Monkey Blog here. The headline “Google-From Parasites to Pals with ITV” sums up a shift in attitude at ITV about the GOOG. The Guardian’s Web site now uses the Google search engine. Will Google cut a deal for the ITV programming? Stay tuned.

For me these two examples illustrate how Google seems to be responding to companies or organizations who don’t roll over and say, “Please, pat my tummy, please, oh, please. May we have lunch at the Googleplex too?” The Google does not stomp away in anger. Nope. The Google tries the Rudolph Valentino tactic. The idea is that with a bit of exotic charm, Google wins over those who resist its charms. Publishers seem to be warming up. And ITV, if not swooning, seems to be batting its digital eye lashes.

These are indications that the GOOG is expanding its range of negotiating weapons. Who will be next to giggle and say, “Let’s do a deal, Mr. Google”? Share your thoughts, please.

Stephen Arnold, November 30, 2008

Microsoft and Its CRM Strategy

November 30, 2008

Colin Barker’s “How Microsoft Plans to Make Its Mark in CRM” is a must read here. The article is an interview with a Microsoft executive named Brad Wilson. Mr. Barker was firing on all cylinders when he questioned Mr. Wilson. There were a number of interesting points in the interview. Let me highlight several of those that resonated with my research into Microsoft’s CRM products and services.

First, Microsoft has 16,000 CRM customers and more than 750,000 users. Dynamics is not in SharePoint territory but 16,000 is a good number. I wonder why SharePoint doesn’t include CRM functions, hook seamlessly into the flavors of Dynamics, and can’t use the report engine in Dynamics? These questions may be answered at some point in the future.

Second, Dynamics “comes with a choice of either having an on-demand subscription offering or buying the software.” According to Mr. Wilson most of Microsoft’s customers have an on premises installation.

Third, CRM 4.0 is a fully multi-tenanted system that a licensee  can deploy “from outside the cloud.” I don’t know exactly what this means, but I wonder if the Microsoft approach to multi tenancy works like Salesforce.com’s system. Salesforce.com has some interesting patent documents which struck me as having quite a broad swatch of claims.

Fourth, “Microsoft is investing more annually on data centers than the complete revenue of all the on-demand players–$1 billion annually.” With 90 percent of the customers using Dynamics on premises, I was not clear about the pace at which customers will shift to Microsoft’s cloud system, if ever?

Fifth, Microsoft is providing portions of the CRM product for free. Will this pricing policy jump start a market or will it devalue the Dynamics solution? Who will pay for the big investments in the cloud if much of the Dynamics system is free or low cost?

There’s more useful information in this interview. Dynamics is going to have an impact on the CRM market and on Microsoft’s bottomline. And what does one do to locate information in a Dynamics system? Use the built in system which works a bit like search in Outlook Express or snag a third party tool.

Stephen Arnold, November 30, 2008

Ad Networks

November 30, 2008

The Overflight technology here sparked some inquiries from companies in the ad network business. I never pay much attention to online advertising. My view is that if a Web site offers content, the Web indexing systems will find you. A good example is the Overflight service announced on November 17, 2008. On November 18, the site was not in the Google index. By November 20, 2008, the Overflight site ranked sixth in the results list for the word Overflight. As I write this before getting on a flight to Europe, the Overflight sight ranking in the results list for the query “overflight” is number two. No metatag spamming, no SEO baloney, no nothing. We index content and provide what seems to me to be a useful service. We are now adding some other features to the public facing Web site. The most interesting will be the use of the Exalead CloudView technology. This is a joint effort between my technically challenged goslings and the French wizards at Exalead. Watch for the announcement shortly. The service is in final testing and looks quite good so far.

But the ad network calls to me put me in unfamiliar territory. I have researched Google’s AdSense, which makes use of the Oingo (Applied Semantics) technology plus many Google inventions, enhancements, and tweaks. My focus on AdSense and its sister AdWords created for me a volcanic island of information. I thought that Google * was * online advertising.

overflight no2

The yellow box marks the Overflight result on November 29, 2008.

After a bit of research Google is not the only game in town. Sure, there are the Microsoft and Yahoo services that I know by name. A bit of sleuthing turned up a large number of outfits who are in the business of selling ads to companies wanting to reach online users. One of them is the AutoChannel.com, a company with which I have been associated for years. Because of the volume of traffic, the Auto Channel gets, I saw its name as a place where companies wanting to reach auto enthusiasts could advertise. You can learn more about this directly from the company. Just navigate here for the media kit.

I located on the Web logs at ZDNet here a useful list here of what the company calls “Top 50 US Ad Carriers in October 2008.” The usual suspects appear on this list, but there were many firms whose names I did not recognize. I clicked on about a dozen of the top ranked firms and learned that each provides a wide range of services both the high traffic Web sites looking to generate revenue and to advertisers who want to place messages on sites germane to their core markets. I can’t reproduce this list, but I think I can give you a flavor of the diversity of firms in this sector. Here are three companies I found interesting, but your taste is likely to be different from this goose’s:

Read more

Will Microsoft Buy Yahoo Search

November 29, 2008

A happy quack to the reader in the Old Country who alerted me to this story in the London Times, “Microsoft in $20 Billion Yahoo Deal.” You can read the news item here. According to the story by John Waples, Microsoft will not get the whole of Yahoo, just what Microsoft considers the good part. The financial play is too complex for me. I think it will be interesting to see if Microsoft’s data center wizards can saddle up and ride the Yahoo engineering infrastructure. I think some of those cowpokes from Redmond will find themselves in a few running gunfights with Yahooligans. Who will win Ray Ozzie’s last stand? I am eager to watch the deal unfold if it comes to pass. At long last, Microsoft will have narrowed the gap between itself and Google in Web search to 30 to 40 percent. What an exciting development if it occurs.

Stephen Arnold, November 29, 2008

Search: Fast and Loose

November 29, 2008

Two news items do not make a trend, but two news items cause me to question what other shenanigans are afoot. The first item concerns British Telecom. The story “BT in Trouble over Secret Behavioral Ad Tests” appeared in WebProNews on November 28, 2008, here. BT seems to be involved in a legal matter related to using Phorm to sniff out data from unsuspecting customers. Gee, I wonder if other telecommunications companies have done things without their customers’ knowledge? Nah, probably not. The second item concerns online advertising. Ars Techica’s “Baidu Caught in Search Ad Scandal, Vows to Overhaul System” here does a good job of explaining some hitches in its relevance ranking. Ars Technica does a good job of explaining the alleged fraud. Baidu has been the target of criticism and litigation despite legal action from the recording industry. Perhaps these are outliers? My thought is that BT and Baidu might be harbingers?

Stephen Arnold, November 29, 2008

Alexa Search: The Gone-Goose Flock Grows

November 29, 2008

I had heard rumblings about Alexa for a while. Early in 2008, I had to gather information about Alexa’s infrastructure. I uncovered some information that did not add up. Great words about the future of Alexa, but the performance was spotty. Amazon–owner of Alexa–is making some changes, if the news reports are accurate. The world’s smartest man may be, in the words of TechFlash, Seattle’s Technology News Source, “pulling the plug”. You can read the story here. “Amazon Pulling Plug on Alexa Web Search” said on November 27, 2008, said, “The reason for the closure: very few people were using it.” The Bezos word for this was “deprecated.” I thought “deprecate” meant “to pray for deliverance from”. Don’t believe me? Click here and look at definition number four. So, the Search Engine Death Watch list grows again. For more information about Alexa, click here. What’s next for Amazon? My thought is that in the present economic climate, Amazon will have to crank the revenue dials for its we’re-better-than-Google cloud computing play. I think the cost of the cloud initiative at Amazon may be rolling in from the Sea of Red Ink. I hope the weather system goes around Amazon, but if it hits, wow, the costs will be high.

Stephen Arnold, November 29, 2008

SAP: Open Text Reseller

November 29, 2008

What an interesting development. Open Text is a publicly traded Canadian firm which owns more search technology than Yahoo. SAP is the software middleware champion of large, tough to deploy, and expensive systems. FSN.co.uk ran a story with a headline that stop this goose in mid flap; to wit: “SAP to Resell Open Text Purchase to Pay Solution.” You can read the story here. The deal is for Open Text forms capture, but Open Text–like SAP–likes to get customers to buy other Open Text solutions. Many of these include search and content processing systems. Several thoughts ran through my mind when I thought about this deal:

First, SAP has forms processing functions for invoices. Is this component getting too expensive for SAP to maintain? Are customers grousing because the SAP component is long in the tooth? These are questions that need some investigation.

Second, if Open Text follows its trajectory of encouraging a user of one component such as forms processing, will SAP sell BASIS, BRS, LiveLink, Fulcrum and SGML search? Assume Open Text convinces an SAP customer to use LiveLink. Will SAP jump on the bandwagon and throw TREX search under the bus?

Third, does this type of deal underscore the jam in which SAP finds itself and its customers?

There’s no clear signals about what’s next for SAP and Open Text, but my thought is that the tie up between these two firms warrants  monitoring.

Stephen Arnold, November 29, 2008

Google: ZDNet and Two Views of Usage Data

November 29, 2008

This item is not really about Google. I think I found it interesting that ZDNet UK wrote a story here with the headline “Yahoo, Microsoft Outperform US Search Growth” and ZDNet US wrote a story here with this headline “Microsoft Still Fighting a Losing Battle against Google”. I detected a certain joy in the UK story. The GOOG is not growing so quickly. The fact that hapless AOL is giving up share in a lousy economic climate to other Web search outfits is not too surprising. The US ZDNet analyst, Garett Rogers, reproduces a chart and suggests that Google is still growing, just not as quickly. I think data from outfits like Comscore and others are only somewhat helpful. Based on the resources to which I have access, I peg Google’s share of the Web search market in the 75 percent range with its share in certain countries in Europe nosing into the 90 percent range. The big point for me is that most people, including trained analysts, have a reluctance to accept three facts:

  1. Google’s share of the search market is dominant and it is unlikely that short of the Google triumvirate having a shoot out in the Google cafeteria, not much is going to change in the foreseeable future
  2. Microsoft and Yahoo are not making significant headway because users are not running queries on these systems. The problem is not Google; the problem is the user.
  3. The data from consultants who make a horse race out of sampled data output stuff that does not make the conclusion easy to understand.

In Web search, the GOOG is number one, and unless Yahoo and Microsoft figure out how to leapfrog Googzilla, the gap is likely to remain quite wide. Clicks mean money. Paying money for traffic won’t do the job. Yahoo, bless its purple heart, has one heck of a mess to sort out. Selling the Kelkoo search system that worked while keeping one that doesn’t work very well is one sign that the company is drifting. Yahoo lost money on the deal and kept the less effective system.

Stephen Arnold, November 29,, 2008

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