Android Droid Surprise

April 30, 2010

Short honk: “Google Tells Verizon Users to Buy HTC Incredible over Nexus One” reported a surprising development. The passage I noted was: “When asked [by a reporter] for an elaboration on the word change, Google added the following: “We won’t be selling a Nexus One with Verizon, and this is a reflection of the amazing innovation happening across the open Android ecosystem. Verizon Wireless customers who want an Android phone with the power of the Nexus One can get the Droid Incredible by HTC.”

The Nexus One is not a goner. The device will be sold by other carriers. Have you snagged a free Nexus One? Google allegedly has been giving them away. Free-conomics?

Stephen E Arnold, April 30, 2010

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Now It Is the Collaborative Enterprise

April 30, 2010

A bit of clicking around surfaced “The Collaborative-Ready Enterprise.” The write up focuses on the benefits of “communication, coordination, communities and social interaction facilitation”. The idea is that video conferencing, instant messaging, similar functions allow a business function like customer support to reduce cost and improve customer satisfaction.

A conversation at breakfast this morning took a different approach. The topic was the downside of collaboration. Three points surfaced.

First, collaboration can create a false sense of confidence in the value or accuracy of a particular item of information. In a collaborative space, two or more people can embrace an idea and move forward. What could be more efficient than trusted users converging on a consensus.

Second, collaboration could become the shortest distance between two points. One point is the need for actionable information and the second point is a path that leads through old fashioned research and analysis. The woods, however, are lovely, dark and deep. The short path may be a nifty short cut that is just easy.

Third, the notion that enterprises need to be collaborative. Perhaps certain tasks can be performed using collaborative methods? Other tasks should not be shifted to the collaborative space. Maybe a single worker performing a specific task does  not need any type of collaboration?

The shift to collaborative services is underway. My view is that collaboration will have significant effects on how individuals obtain and think about information. I also have a nagging thought that collaboration raises some hurdles for security, efficiency, and business processes.

I have pointed out that in the present economic climate “Enterprise 2.0” chatter does little to address the problems generated by “Enterprise 1.0” companies. Now the chase is on for the “collaborative enterprise.” Last time I checked in Louisville, Kentucky, there were office vacancies galore, increasing pressure on small businesses, and a heck of a lot of people without much hope for employment.

Buzzwords are useful, but I think more is needed.

Stephen E Arnold, April 30, 2010

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Oracle Acceleration with Sun Methods

April 30, 2010

Companies with big investments in Oracle face the same tough choices that bedeviled me when using Sun Microsystems hardware for The Point (Top 5% of the Internet) in 1993. To make Sun stuff go fast, one needed to keep the Sun system pure; that is, only Sun approved goodies were to be used. Each goodie had to be certified, some stringently certified and some less stringently certified. The benefit of following the rules was keeping the warranty and service agreements valid. Get too frisky and one had to pay for the romp in the grass chasing technical butterflies.

Oracle follows the same path. In a world when Google talks about commodity hardware and most developers either embrace or have a pretty solid notion of open source, the Oracle approach seems somewhat out of step.

Or is it?

I know that there are quite a few companies who have been like Speed of Mind in the business of enhancing Oracle’s search performance or like CopperEye are in this business now. There are others, and you can find them by searching for hyperboles or just visiting an enterprise software trade show.

Speeding up Oracle looks like a slam dunk business. The reality is that most of Oracle’s customers want to achieve better performance by keeping within the bright white lines that Oracle puts on its information toll road.

If you have a sluggish Oracle system, you will want to run a query for Oracle accelerators on Google or just navigate to Oracle itself and run a query for the Sun Oracle database machine. The Exadata gizmo is expensive, but most serious Oracle shops will rely on this type of device to get the performance required for today’s petascale applications.

Why?

The answer is that the Oracle DBA knows that one way or another, the Oracle Sun engineers can get the system to work and deliver better performance. The boss will agree because the cost of dealing with service if the warranty or service agreement is invalidated makes the cost savings of non Oracle solutions look like buying a chopped liver sandwich at a deli.

As the hyperbole about NoSQL solutions increases, knocking out Oracle is no easy task. Some vendors have put massive hurt on Oracle. Mark Logic comes to mind as one company that has an uncanny knack of delivering a content solution that just happens to address some Oracle data issues. But other firms have yet to experience Mark Logic type of success.

In short, there are some powerful magnetic forces operating to repel non Oracle solutions. The DBA whose sole job is to baby sit Oracle is just one factor. Sure, Oracle has flaws, but logical arguments may have to get around the potential cost penalties of letting the engineers chase butterflies.

Stephen E Arnold, April 30, 2010

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Google and the Problematic MACs

April 30, 2010

The article “Google Defends Street View Wi-Fi Data Collection” has a killer passage. This is the segment that made it into my handwritten notes:

Peter Fleischer, global privacy counsel for Google, countered this in a blog post, saying that the firm does not believe that collecting Wi-Fi network information is illegal. “This is all publicly broadcast information accessible to anyone with a Wi-Fi enabled device. Companies like Skyhook have been collecting this data for longer than Google, as well as organizations like the German Fraunhofer Institute,” he wrote.

The key words for me are “believe” and “anyone with a Wi-Fi enabled device.” But the context in which I snarfed down this sound bite was the flashback from Google’s stance on China. Navigate to “Baidu’s First-Quarter Profit Soared 165% on Google Exit.” The point of the story is that Google’s “belief” is costing its shareholders money and giving Baidu an implicit okay to sew up the world’s largest market. But even more remarkable is that Baidu has a deal with AliPay, which could strangle Google’s competing service in the world’s largest market.

Yep, believe and beliefs. Running a company is supposed to generate value for shareholders, not these public relations, legal, and financial dust storms. Will Google be able to hang on to the number one rank in top brands?

Stephen E Arnold, April 30, 2010

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Yahoo and Search Models

April 30, 2010

I received an email this morning pointing to the strong showing of Google at the recent Web conference in Raleigh, North Carolina. I responded that Yahoo continues to push forward with what seem to me academic-type initiatives. In terms of traffic and revenue growth, I am waiting for some real action to take place.

After writing the email to the person who pinged me about Yahoo, I read “Yahoo’s Search Model Developing a New Face.” Suddenly this morning it is a Yahoo renascence, at least for a few minutes. The SFGate story recycles the conference presentations. The idea in the write up struck me as a variant of publish or perish or publicity or perish.

The passage that caught my attention was:

[The Yahoo report] … found that people only spend about one-sixth of their online time performing searches. That compares with half of their time for browsing and one-third for communicating, according to aggregated data pulled from the Yahoo Toolbar, a downloadable browser feature that provides quick links to a user’s favorite content.

The research shows that people are “doing” things to find information. Yep, that’s search. The problem is that the word “search” is pretty much without meaning in my opinion. The reality is that the yammer about social networks is missing the obvious point; that is, some users prefer to rely on what those in their so-called network tell them, not what an ad choked, power besotted, marketing injected public Web search system tells them.

image

Search vendors and their research papers are in the ivery tower world. Interesting stuff, but it is not as relevant as traffic and money. Source: http://www.ivorytowerframes.com/3765/IVORYTOWERIMAGE11.jpg

How do I know?

First, look at the sudden shift from Web search to services like Facebook. Even Caterina Fake’s Hunch.com service is about finding information. True, it combines smart software with inputs from humans but it indicates the boundary condition for the phase change that is taking place.

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Kindle Forced in a Nook

April 29, 2010

Short honk: I mentioned at a break in the Boston search conference that I heard the Barnes & Noble Nook was outselling the Amazon Kindle. Several people expressed surprise. I did a quick online check and the factoid appears in “Nook Outsells Kindle in March, E-Reader Sales Expected to Hit 11 Million.” Interesting if spot on. In my opinion, along side the Apple iPad, the Kindle and the Nook seem “old”. Nook and Kindle seem clunky next to the iPad. Just my opinion. Apple does hardware pretty well. Just my opinion.

Stephen E Arnold, April 29, 2010

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Small and Mid Sized Businesses: Growth and Search

April 29, 2010

Small Business Computing ran “Microsoft SMB Specialists See 2010 Spending Rise.” Microsoft as azure chip consultants? Why not? The write up contained some quite interesting assertions about the future. Well, it was Microsoft’s business partners who were the source of the survey sample. And, to be fair, the survey did not consider the spill over from the financial issues rising like a high tide in Europe. Here’s the passage that caught my attention:

“SMBs are back in spending mode,” Birger Steen, vice president of Microsoft’s small and medium business and distribution, told Internet News.com. “The most salient fact here is, whereas last year, one in four were increasing spending, this year it’s six out of ten,” Steen added.

What was curious is that there was no mention of search. In my opinion, search is not an issue in this business sector from the Microsoft survey team’s point of view. Will this have an impact on other search vendors?

Yes. My view is that Microsoft may be leaving itself vulnerable to direct sales thrusts by vendors of search and content processing in this market sector.

Search may make little material difference to Microsoft in the small and mid sized business market. The indifference of Microsoft may be the life preserver some search vendors need. Some vendors are dog paddling like crazy and issuing news releases with quite remarkable assertions about their products. Others like Google are content with a “meh” strategy.

My view: fewer histrionics and more direct selling, please. Microsoft may slam this door and then what? More search and content processing vendors will slip into the dark, dark night.

Stephen E Arnold, April 29, 2010

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Open, Closed, and Information Access

April 29, 2010

I continue to hear comments about the importance of open source software. Two or three years ago, knowledge of open source search technologies was confined to some specialist groups. Today open source is generally understood and open source search implementations can be found in large and small organizations. The article “The Tradeoff between Open and Closed” raises some useful points. One passage I noted was:

I tend to think what is good for the tech industry is generally good for society.  But others certainly have different views.  Advocates of openness are often accused of being socialist hippies.  Maybe some are.  I am not.  I care about the tech industry.  I think it’s reasonable to question whether moves by large industry players are good or bad for the industry.  Unfortunately most of the debate I’ve seen so far seems driven by ideology and name calling.

Yep, data are good.

Stephen E Arnold, April 29, 2010

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AOL, Revenue, and Customer Experience

April 29, 2010

I liked the Relegence technology. The system sucked in content and generated really nifty reports. Now Relegence.com is a 404, a bit like the AOL earnings report summarized in “AOL Sales, Earnings Plunge.” I don’t use AOL, but like SAP, it is one of the companies that dabbles in search and content processing and provides important clues about the trajectory of these two disciplines. For example, you can navigate to AOL.com and run a query for Relegence, which AOL bought in late 2006. See “AOL Buys Relegence for Relevance.” The search results don’t come from Relegence, Fast Search, Personal Library Software, or any other commercial search system with which AOL has dallied in the last six years. The results are “Enhanced by Google.” Makes sense. AOL is run by a Googler, a pattern that seems to be like those old repeating wallpapers on Web pages in 1996. The idea is that a Googler inherits the Google magic. Therefore, the reasoning goes, a Googler can take a portal and make it into a cash machine.

I like this type of thinking but AOL is one of the online companies that was never in the search, content, or information business. Shocking, right? In my little corner of the goose pond, AOL sold potential dreams in the form of dial up access billed monthly. The company was a digital ShamWow operation. The carpet bombing of sign up discs created a cash stream that seemed to be unending.

It ended. AOL did not have another revenue stream of comparable magnitude. I have watched the acrobats try to disguise this simple fact with many different initiatives. Nothing really worked. Now the earnings reports make clear that Google magic is not transferable and that the original content angle is not exactly like the automatic billing and tough-to-cancel monthly service which was the golden goose at AOL.

Here’s the snippet I liked from the CNN story:

The New York-based company posted net income of $34.7 million, or 32 cents per share, in the first three months of 2010. That’s down from $82.7 million, or 78 cents per share, in the same period last year.

My second favorite segment was:

“We are now entering the second phase of AOL’s plan which is to greatly improve the consumer experience, scale the advertising systems and teams, and aggressively pursue our strategy in the marketplace,” said Armstrong.

I know nothing about user experience. But I do know a bit more about money.

Why’s this matter?

It means zero to me since I don’t own any shares in the company. Furthermore, since the Relegence service became Love.com I don’t use the service too much anymore. I mean, really, Love.com for an optimized business intelligence engine?

It does matter for these reasons:

  1. If advertising goes south, the AOL trajectory may  be the “line” that Yahoo and Google will follow. If I am correct, this “line” will be an errant one indeed.
  2. The many AOL efforts remind me of the scrambling, hyperbole, fancy dance steps and repositioning that content centric companies do * before * their decline accelerates. The AOL moves are harbingers of what will happen if the European financial problems exacerbate the US financial situation.
  3. AOL may never be able to regain the revenue streams from its dial up, CD ROM marketing era. Without the golden goose (no pun intended) of recurring monthly credit card billings, AOL is just another company trying to make dough on the Internet.

Is this germane to other companies? Yep. Every time I read an inflated news release with words that are superlatives or use metrics like X times better, faster, and cheaper, I know there is some pressure on the managers.

When a Googler cannot pull a rabbit from a beanie with a propeller on top, who can? Maybe Facebook, but that company is in a different business. The irony is that AOL was an early type of Facebook. Now Facebook has jumped over AOL and its Googler boss.

The take away for me is that once that big revenue stream is in decline, replacing the money flow is a tough problem. Advantages go away. A company is just another start up with long, long odds for success.

Just my opinion.

Stephen E Arnold, April 29, 2010

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Is Apple in the Search Business?

April 29, 2010

I read several posts about Apple’s acquisition of Siri, a maker of software that “understands what you say, accomplishes tasks for you, and adapts to your preferences over time.” The software promises a great deal, but like most smart systems, Siri has some glitches. These may have less to do with technology and more to do with the nature of language. I read “Apple Buys Siri, A Mobile Assistant App, As War With Google Heats Up,” and noted this passage:

…in a sense, Apple just got into the search business.

Make no mistake, Apple is in the hardware, software, content, and money business. That means Apple has to deal with findability. I am not sure the word “search” is the right one. Apple needs a number of technologies to handle the findability load its growth is creating.

How long will it take for Apple to crack the code on search? The same time it takes for Google, Microsoft, and other firms to resolve the problem.

My hunch is that in some ways, Apple is farther along in what I call “next generation search”. The company makes it easy for folks looking for music and other digital content to locate what’s wanted and to buy it. That’s proof backed by Apple’s revenues and share price.

On the other hand, certain types of findability suck. Try and locate a specific book in iTunes when you don’t know much other than a few words of the title or part of the author’s name.

The acquisition is significant, but Siri delivers potential, not a search solution.

Stephen E Arnold, April 29, 2010

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