Apple May Challenge in Advertising

September 28, 2010

Google is mostly about advertising revenue, not search, in my opinion. The shift took place sometime in the 2006 and 2007 period. My yardstick continues to be Google’s technical documents in open source. These include patent applications, blog posts, and published papers.

Now Business Week has added some information that indicates a possible weakness in not just Google’s grip on the increasingly important mobile online ad market but also Microsoft’s and other companies’ prospects. “Apple Threatens Search Giants’ Mobile Ad Shares” reported:

Apple may be gaining share in the U.S. mobile advertising market this year at the expense of Google and Microsoft. Apple will end the year with 21 percent of the market, according to estimates provided to by researcher IDC. Google’s share will drop to 21 percent, from 27 percent last year, when combined with results from AdMob, the ad network it bought in May. Microsoft will drop to 7 percent, from 10 percent.

These type of data are almost always interesting and based on methods that are not described in detail. Let’s assume that the Apple iAd system is operating as described. Business Week notes that no company is a slam dunk.

Nevertheless, our view of these data is that the company most likely to be encouraged by the write up is not Apple. Apple understands the value of its customer base and its methods of providing access to Apple’s customers.

Our take is that Facebook is in an ideal position to leverage its “members” and the data the company has about these individuals. With Google’s approach relatively well known and Apple’s becoming increasingly clear, Facebook can sit back, tweak its online ad offerings, and use a “me too” approach when its mobile tactics become a reality later this year.

Will Apple’s push into social with its somewhat overly visible “Ping” link help Apple cope with Facebook? Can Google respond to the social dominance of Facebook and the Apple hardware/software ecosystem in rich media?

We don’t know the answer, but Google may be the company with most significant challenge. And what happens to search? The odds seem to be rising that search will become the servant of online advertising. Search is a means to generate ad revenue, not a way to help users solve an information problem. If we are correct, this is an important moment in findability. Any pretense to objectivity in public Web search results may be swept away.

Stephen E Arnold, September 28, 2010


Egentia: Another Aggregation Play

September 28, 2010

The newspaper is no longer the most sought after when it comes to finding the latest information. More and more people are putting down their paper and turning to online news to keep them informed. The company Eqentia aims to build a business portal that will have the same prestige for entrepreneurs that Google News has for the average user who wants to be informed about general news and developments.”

The article “ – Like Google News but For Businessmen” on explains a little more about the site. Basically, the company wants to allow users to customize their news options and get only the business news they want. Users can get the latest news from their business sector, keep an eye on the competition or see consumer patterns which can be helpful when coming up with marketing or media campaigns. A similar setup is already used by Silobreaker, which is dedicated to providing users with relevant news. Users perform automated searches in order to find in depth and relevant news instead of unsubstantiated chatter. Both sites give new meaning to the phrase “have it your way.”

The challenge seems to be marketing, not technology. There is an abundance of choices.

April Holmes, September 28, 2010


IBM – Netezza Deal and Its Implications for Netezza Partners

September 28, 2010

We learned that Attivio had a tie up with Netezza. We have heard about other search vendors partnering with the storage and analytics firm as well. Attivio is a business intelligence, content processing, and search vendor founded by some of Fast Search & Transfer’s former technologists. You can get more information about the company at

EnergySavingWeekly had reported that the combination of Netezza and Attivio would integrate unstructured content with structured data that resides in a data warehouse. According to the article:

We introduced the world’s first data warehouse appliance and challenged the status quo,” Jim Baum, president and CEO of Netezza, in a statement. And now, driven by our customers, we are shaping solutions to solve bigger, more complex enterprise-wide challenges. With the explosion in volume and variety of unstructured information driven, particularly, by the Internet and social networking, we’ve heard a clear demand for a unified approach that can scale from fairly small implementations all the way to petabyte deployments.

Will IBM allow Netezza and its partners to operate without much change? Or, will IBM which is struggling to beef up its content processing, classification, and indexing systems go in a new direction? IBM has a large number of different search, text processing, and analytics companies and their technologies. Will these be unified or is IBM buying market share? We don’t know. IBM’s strategy is looking more and more like the Yahoo approach to gathering promising companies and then moving on to another green field.

Will Attivio be drawn more deeply into IBM,  or will Attivio be squeezed out? Stay tuned, as once again, we are keeping a close eye on this one.

Stephen E Arnold, September 28, 2010


White Paper on Data Mashups

September 28, 2010

We continue to work on projects that shift the emphasis from basic search to more sophisticated types of information retrieval. The companies in this market sector range from giants like SPSS (now part of IBM) and SAS to smaller firms that owe their origins to investments from the US government; for example, Recorded Future and Purple Yogi (now Stratify).

We noted the article titled “InetSoft Publishes Business Intelligence White Paper on Data Mashups”. The document of interest is a white paper authored by InetSoft, one of the companies pushing forward with data mashup technology. The paper asserts:

Data mashup is a data transformation and integration technique that puts control into the hands of the business user. Data mashup melds the flexibility of a spreadsheet with enterprise-level security, performance, repeatability, and collaboration.  Data mashup can function in a complimentary relationship with warehousing, and can serve as a cost-effective substitute for traditional ETL [extract, transform, and load].

Spotting, digging out, and analyzing business data from disparate sources is expensive and time consuming. Further, this data must then be used for business intelligence (BI) decision-making and analysis. BI aims to support better decision-making by transforming raw data into meaningful and useful information used to enable effective and strategic decision-making. The main point is that business intelligence can save licensees of mashup systems time and eliminate reporting costs. Like other next generation companies, the implication is that InetSoft offers a flexible framework.

Our view is that the “mashup” or data fusion sector is now the next big thing in search and content processing. We are uncertain about the time and expense of marketing these next generation systems, however. In our view, as traditional search vendors face commoditization for low value, low complexity solutions, the hunt for new revenue will create significant opportunities for confusing potential customers.

Search is not really simple, but it is now tired. The next generation content processing systems have vigor, but will the excesses of enthusiasm create the same type of market perplexity that befuddles some procurement teams? What will the azurini do? How will the marketers at the rising number of “data fusion” firms position their products?

Excitement ahead.

Stephen E Arnold, September 28, 2010


Facebook Framework for Finding

September 28, 2010

I am trying to locate the Louisville East End Social Security Office. I navigated to Google and entered “SSA Local”. No joy. I snagged my phone and fired off an SMS to a friend. The friend sent me a text message with the directions.

A small thing, sure. But what about the notion of timely, precise information?

I read “Facebook CEO Hints at Social Mobile Application Framework” and had a small insight. Facebook is going to make life difficult for some search and retrieval vendors. Microsoft owns a piece of Facebook, so maybe the pain won’t be much more than a mosquito bite on a 20 year old hiking the Appalachian Trail in July. Yahoo has ties to Microsoft. So that may leave Google as a potential Nash or Oldsmobile.

To me, an important comment in the article was:

Facebook wants to offer a new social mobile application framework based on open standards, kind of like a counterpart to the tons of mobile application frameworks already found on smartphones. Ultimately this framework will tap directly into smartphone functionality through APIs, like every other framework, only that Facebook’s framework will be “social and friends” oriented.

A social framework is an interesting notion. Data fusion companies could plug into Facebook and develop applications for marketing firms and others with an interest in real time content streams.

Latency is emerging as the next big problem for many content processing companies. Delays in information access translate into less accurate predictive outputs. More data faster is the mantra. But the major impact of a Facebook framework if it comes to pass may be on search.

Why rely on high latency, brute force indexing methods when you can ask a social content pool and then obtain results from a curated list of “friends”. There’s geolocation and more traditional search methods to smooth out the potholes the friendless may encounter.

Social search just worked for me. On to the Social Security Office to contemplate the future of search.

Stephen E Arnold, September 28, 2010


Tibco: Money and Mentos

September 27, 2010

Tibco (founded and directed by MIT- and Harvard-grad Vivek Ranadive) reported strong third quarter earnings. The company also made an interesting acquisition. Tibco purchased OpenSpirit, a maker of software used in oil and gas exploration in September 2010.

The “information bus” upon which Tibco’s fame rests is used as plumbing in a number of high profile industries. These include news, financial services, and government entities.

What’s important about Tibco is that the firm, in my opinion, has been one of the leaders in real time computing and information systems. Tibco’s approach can alert, pass messages, and transform content. With a bit of work, Tibco becomes the equivalent of the nervous system of a client. Many companies assert that their technology delivers a platform. Palantir, for example, is a relative newcomer to the platform pitch. But the reality is that companies like Tibco deliver a deeper, more fundamental architectural approach.

And Tibco makes the efficacy of its architecture easy to understand. How does Tibco communicate the value of its real time architecture? Click here.

For more information about Tibco, what I call a real platform company, navigate to the firm’s Web site at When I visited Tibco’s offices a decade ago, I remember see Yahoo News chugging happily away on Tibco’s servers. Yep, Tibco is more than Mentos.

Stephen E Arnold, September 27, 2010

Google in a French Twist

September 27, 2010

Someone tell me that this fine is a good thing. Every time I read about Google and its adventures in Legal Land, I wonder if there is other news about the company. I read “French Court Orders Google Inc to Pay Libel Damages: Report” and noted this passage:

A French court has ordered Google Inc to pay 5,000 euros ($6,672) in libel damages to a man who claimed that searches for his name automatically yielded a list of harmful suggestions. The man, whose name was not given, said the suggested terms that came up when typing his name on — including the words “rape,” “rapist” and “prison” — were damaging for his reputation, court documents showed.

What happens when Google Instant goes so far to generate a list  of pages a person finds objectionable. Social content can be quite tricky.

Tough to disassemble. At the right price, easy to nibble

If others step forward and object to suggestions, the Google has one more hassle its clever technology has inadvertently triggered. Math calculations are one thing. Predicting how humans react to Math Club is quite another in my opinion.

Google seems to be caught in one of those fancy French baker confections. From the outside, it is tough to understand how it was done and once twisted, the pastry is tough to detwist.

Stephen E Arnold, September 27, 2010

Freebie and that’s not a suggestion

Search, Commoditization, and the Vulnerable Vendors

September 27, 2010

We are starting our fall swing for clients who want to know the outlook for search and content processing in 2011. I want to select one point from our briefing and relate it to a topic that some of the azurini are missing. I am not involved with any of the mid tier consulting firms, but these firms’ information has a way of turning up in quotes that may create an impression that all is well in search engine markets.

Search vendors are under pressure—enormous pressure. And the G forces are going up. At the same time, new players enter the market; for example, the academic spin out Sophia Search. Established players have obtained fresh infusions of capital to deal with the “opportunities” that exist in specific market segments like Microsoft SharePoint.

Let me point out that low end search solutions are now essentially free. A download of Lucene/Solr, FLAX, or some variant available with a bit of poking around via is a click away. These systems work well, but you may want to have a friendly programmer at hand to help you over any bumps. For most organizations, open source works and works well. One doesn’t have to look much farther than Netflix to see how open source works in a high demand, high profile system. For more clues about what big firms are jumping on the open source search solution, navigate to and look at the line up of speakers.


Image source:

Open source search is flowing into market sectors where certain historical trends have created a vacuum. Open source search is not so much muscling into these market sectors as being sucked in. Nature abhors a vacuum as most people learned in high school physics. (Modern physicists have diff3ernt views, but this is a blog post about markets, not theoretical physics.)

The market that is most directly affected are those where the perceived value of commercial search systems is low or modest and where the complexity of the search problem from the point of view of the licensee is manageable. Search is very complicated, but I am talking about perception of customers, procurement teams, and developers on staff who want to solve a problem. Open source is often the choice that our research suggests bubbles up from the technical members of the organization. The MBAs think IBM. The young engineers from CalTech think open source search.

So what happens?

Open source seeps into the organization, and when it works, it gains momentum. We did not find this trend particularly surprising because it replicates the diffusion of other technologies in other industries. I recall learning that the method of making hot air popcorn evolved from a hair drier. The hair drier from a discount store worked well enough to give the engineering team the insight required to build a very large business on a commodity component.

Who gets squished in this shift?

Read more

Facebook and Google: Philosophies Collide

September 27, 2010

I listened to the Thursday, Buzz Out Loud podcast. On the show the talent explained that a certain high profile blog (Techcrunch) wrote a story about a rumored Facebook phone. The high profile blog garnered a meeting with the founder of Facebook (Wizard Zuck or Mark Zuckerberg). In that discussion, if I heard correctly as I was peddling my exercise bike at 66 year old goose pace, Mr. Zuckerberg point out something along the lines that social functions could not be added on. The idea I took away was that Facebook is built for social functions. Google was built for search or some other function.

As I thought about this, the comment highlighted what I think of as a “platform” fight.

The idea has surfaced elsewhere. I have started to write about the i2-Palantir tussle. That seems to be about lots of different technical issues, but it is really a platform fight. i2 has been one of the leaders if not the leader in data fusion and analysis for law enforcement and intelligence applications for 20 years. Keep in mind that I have done some work for the i2 folks. The Palantir outfit—stuffed with $90 million in semi-worthless US bucks—is a comparative newcomer. These two outfits are struggling to keep or get, depending on one’s point of view—control of a very esoteric market niche. Most of the azurini and mid-tier consultants steer clear of this sector. The types of baloney generated by the azurinis’ spam plants can harm people, not just get procurement teams reassigned. The i2-Palantir issue interests me because it is a platform tussle.

I think Facebook and Google are in a platform war as well.

Now keep in mind that if you are a Googler, you see the world through Google goggles. If you are a Facebook fan, you see the world through the friend lens. I am in the middle, and here’s my take on Wizard Zuck’s alleged comment about “adding” social instead of building a social platform.

First, I think the shift from Google to Facebook as a go-to resource is an important change. The reason Facebook “works” for 500 million or more people is that the information (good, bad, right, wrong, made up, crazy, or indifferent) comes from humans. If you have some relationship with that human, the information exists within a relationship context. When I run a search on Google, I have to figure out for myself whether the information is right, wrong, made up, crazy, indifferent or an advertisement. I don’t get much human help to figure out what’s what. As a result, the Google algorithmic and “secret sauce” results strike me as somewhat less useful now that there are “contextual” results and what I call “friend cues.” Your mileage may vary, but these friend cues also exist in services like Twitter and its derivatives/applications like Tweetmeme.

Second, Google is definitely in Microsoft Word feature mode. I am impressed with some of Google’s new services such as its new authentication method, which I will write about in one of my October columns. I am not too impressed with other Google innovations such as “Instant”. The ration of Word type features to useful features seems to be tilting toward the Microsoft model. I don’t use Word because it is a program that tries to do everything well and ends up becoming a wild and crazy exercise in getting text on the screen. My goodness: green lines, red lines, auto bullets, disappearing images, weird table behavior. Give me Framemaker 7.2. Facebook is a complicated system, but the basics work reasonably well even though the firm’s immature approach to information reminds me of the last group of 20 somethings I spoke with in Slovenia several months ago. Google is now at risk of letting features get in the way of functional improvements. Facebook is in refinement mode. When it comes to social, Facebook is refining social actions. When it comes to social, Google is still trying to figure it out.

Third, Google is a platform built originally to deliver Web search results in the manner of AltaVista without Hewlett Packard in my opinion. Facebook is a platform built to let those who are young at heart find old and new pals. Google has morphed search into advertising and now faces the challenge of figuring out how to go beyond Orkut, which as I write this is struggling with some crazy virus or malware. Facebook is, according to a rumor I heard, working to provide search that uses the content within the Facebook ecosystem as the spider list. Curation versus search/advertising. Which platform is better to move search forward in the social space? Google is layering on a new approach to people and content and Facebook is simply indexing a subset of content. Curated content at that.

My view is that Facebook and Google are in a platform battle. Who will win? Wizard Zuck and Xooglers who know technically what Google errors to avoid in the Facebook social environment? Googlers who are trying to keep an 11 year old platform tuned for brute force Web indexing and on the fly ad matching run by smart algorithms?

Interesting platform battle. And a big one. This may not be a Socrates-hemlock type of tussle but it is a 21st century philosophical collision.

Stephen E Arnold, September 27, 2010


Getting Info: No Easy Answer

September 27, 2010

The azurini are beating the UX or user experience drum. I find that there are two schools of thought. On one side are the “info for dummies approach”. The idea is that users are too lazy, tired, busy, addled, or indifferent to do much more than click a link. In fact, what ever link is prominent is the “right link”. The number one practitioner of this approach is Google.

The other school of thought is that users should be able to control their information experience. In this approach is “set up what you want”. This can be accomplished through a command line, graphical interface, or behind the scenes.

One approach abrogates control; the other gives the illusion of control. Both are a problem for me.

The way to get information has been and remains:

  1. Using primary data collection methods; that is, ask people and gather data
  2. Using secondary data collection methods; that is, multiple sources both online and hard copy
  3. Using various analytic tools; that is, converting data to machine readable form and performing some tricks even if the work is little more than click on Excel functions
  4. Discussing the information with informed individuals.

Omitting a step or two leads to some interesting situations. One example may be the present health care, banking, or employment crises. Choose one. The inability to focus on research may have more to do with lousy decisions than the second string consultants care to admit. Heck, toss in some 30 something Blue Chip consultants. Short cuts in research are the norm.

Most organizations have huge databases which feed more operations. These databases are typically used by experts as well as regular users. Experts generally are people who understand the database solutions and structure and build their use around it. The regular users are looking for a more obvious and intuitive solution than actually learning programming.

While few companies have really tried to tackle this problem, it continues to loom large on most corporations. Frequent request to IT support for query help leads to bottleneck. As a result, database utilization becomes inefficient.

We learned recently that “Stonefield Query” is an attempt to overcome this. “Stonefield Query eliminates the IT bottleneck putting business reporting in the hands of the casual user where it belongs.”

Despite all the new logics and enhancements certain database requests require a level of customization which standard enhancements cannot support; so complete control of direct queries by end user is still a distant dream.

Short cuts won’t solve the problem of doing thorough research. Put that in your Google Instant, add water, and season with a point-and-click preferences interface.

Stephen E Arnold, September 26, 2010


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