The Future: Computing Toasters and Microwave Ovens for Search

August 24, 2012

After floundering around Denali National Park, I had a backlog of stories which Overflight flagged as “must reads.” One, which caught my attention, was “Fewer and Fewer People Want to Know about Computers, Says Google.” I took a look at the write up.

The first thing which hit me was that the article was pegged to Google Trends. If you are not familiar with this service, navigate to Google Trends. Type in your search terms and hit “Search Trends.” Google taps into some of its data to generate a chart which purports to show the number of queries for the terms over the timeline. I ran this query on August 23, 2012, tablet, notebook computer. Google happily displayed:


Despite the lousy Web log graphics, the flat red line represents search for notebook computers. The squiggly blue line shows queries for the word “tablet.” Now there is an issue with disambiguation of “tablet” but no degree in math is needed to see that the squiggly blue line alleged shows more queries for “tablets.” The chart tell a search engine optimization maven that buying the word “tablet” will get more traffic than the phrase “notebook computer.” An SEO expert will also figure out that the cost of the word tablet might be higher than buying the phrase “notebook computer.”

Yum. Information pizza. Filling and really good for your brain.

Now back to the write up and the phrase “Says Google.” Google is not saying anything. A person ran queries and received data. One never knows how comprehensive the data set available to Google Trends is. Furthermore, I am not sure I know how the data sets are generated.

The article reports what I already knew. Each time Dell or Hewlett Packard releases its financial reports, I am reminded that certain mainstay computing products are not selling like hot cakes. HP’s printer ink business was down. Dell’s hardware sales were down. Non Apple tablets are non-starters. Fancy Dan consultants generate massive reports about the shift to mobile devices. On a personal front, at meetings I see more iPads than 15 inch notebook computers. The small form factor netbooks have mostly disappeared from the circles in which I travel.

What about the phrase “Fewer People Want to Know about Computers”? I have worked in various technology centric businesses for more than 50 years. Guess what I learned on my first day at Halliburton Nuclear in 1972? I learned that at a subsidiary with more than 600 nuclear engineers, only a tiny fraction of the professionals wanted to learn about computers.

Flash forward 50 years. Most people don’t want to learn about computers. If you happen to work at a company which is steeped in computer hardware and software, the interest in computing technology is quite high. However, when one asks one of these experts to fix a dead laptop, does that person eagerly volunteer to disassemble your machine, replace a dead hard drive, and reinstall and operating system and applications? My experience is that modern assembly methods make today’s gizmos tough to fix.

I may know how to take apart an iMac, and iPhone, or a Toshiba laptop. But I don’t want to do it, never did. Even a trivial fix such as replacing a VGA port with a bent pin can be an exercise in frustration. I don’t want to go through the drill of locating a disassembly guide, finding my sets of electronics screwdrivers, getting my magnifying gizmo set up, and repairing the system. The components are tiny. I have other work to do. Do you really want to reinstall OSX or Windows on your mother’s PC? So consumerization is here.

The larger issue is, “What does this mean about understanding information access?”l

With folks just wanting a tablet or mobile phone to work, I believe that many people will accept what the provider or vendor delivers. With the gap between those who learn zip in high school and college, figuring out that information payloads are shaped will be impossible and possibly irrelevant any way. For those lucky dogs who are in the technology flow, I understand the opportunity to take advantage of those operating at a lower clock speed, with less RAM, and a flawed storage device.

Once I thought that a search should return objective, high value results. I have learned that search systems have to allow system administrators to boost certain content. The app revolution generates money when the app delivers an experience which is similar to a microwaved pizza. Some calories, lots of fat, and quickly and easy to cook.

I don’t need a Google Trend chart to make clear the business opportunities consumerization presents.

Stephen E Arnold, August 24, 2012

Sponsored by Augmentext


2 Responses to “The Future: Computing Toasters and Microwave Ovens for Search”

  1. Dinesh Vadhia on August 24th, 2012 7:06 pm

    Search as we know it is driven by an intent defined by the keywords entered into the search box. On the web, Google has dominated intent-based search by delivering relevant results very quickly and tying the intent to a word-based ad model.

    At the opposite end of intent-driven search is an undefined intent. What is that? We call it autonomous discovery but a good analogy is window-shopping. A woman walks through a mall during her lunch break to her regular cafe and notices a pair of yellow shoes in a store window. She goes inside to try them on.

    People’s lives are a continual interplay of finding things and things finding them. History shows that convenience matters. The convenience of discovering things of interest without doing anything much should be of value to a wider spectrum of the population.

  2. The Future: Computing Toasters and Microwave Ovens for Search … | on August 25th, 2012 4:26 am
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