Palantir Technologies: Minor Questions Remain

October 1, 2020

DarkCyber noted “Techie Software Soldier Spy: Palantir, Big Data’s Scariest, Most Secretive Unicorn, Is Going Public. But Is Its Crystal Ball Just Smoke and Mirrors?” The write up joins the caravan of publications digging into the ins and outs of the intelware business.

There are precedents for a vendor of specialized services becoming a public company. One example is Verint, and there are others. Sometimes the lineage of an intelware company can be difficult to figure out. There are start ups in Cypress; there are partnerships in Herzliya; and there are Byzantine limited liability operations in midtown Manhattan.

What’s striking about Palantir is that the coverage has been content with the jazzy bits. DarkCyber understands the need to create buzz and capture eyeballs. The write up uses an interesting quotation from Admiral Poindexter, an interesting person who may be qualified to explain intelware:

“When I talked to Peter Thiel early on, I was impressed with the design and the ideas they had for the user interface,” Poindexter told me recently. “But I could see they didn’t have — well, as you call it, the back end, to automatically sort through the data and eliminate that tedious task for the users. And my feedback from the people who used it at the time, they were not happy with it at all. It was just much too manual.”

DarkCyber wondered:

  1. Why the write up did not explore the i2 Analyst’s Notebook vs.. Palantir legal matter. That activity suggested that Palantir may have had some interest in a proprietary file format and allegedly worked in interesting ways to obtain closely guarded information. A related question is, “Why would bright start up engineers resort to allegedly questionable methods to figure out a file format?” Too bad the write up ignores a legal matter which illuminates Palantir’s methods.
  2. Why is Palantir running into the revenue ceiling which other vendors of search and content processing systems for government entities hit? Are there too few customers? Did Autonomy, another search and content processing company, bumped into the revenue ceiling too? Is there a elephant standing in a pool of red ink in the accounting departments of some search and content processing companies?
  3. Why are intelware vendors offering their products and services under generous free trials programs to the known customers with allocated funds for such systems? And in parallel, the vendors are working overtime to find someone with deep pockets to buy these start ups?
  4. How similar are the products and services of intelware vendors? Why is innovation confined to graphics and innovation confined to recycling ideas in circulation for decades? One of the DarkCyber team observed, “Isn’t Palantir Gotham Titan the old Analyst’s Notebook with a pop up wheel on the right mouse button?” (I hire skeptical and maybe slightly cynical engineers I think.)
  5. Could it be that in the “real world” of fast-moving events the intelware vendors’ products don’t work all that well? Is it time for deeper analysis of comparable products and services? How does Palantir stack up against Voyager Labs’ offerings or the the LookingGlass system.
  6. Why doesn’t smart software do a better job of importing data? What has Datawalk figured out that eludes the Palantirians?
  7. Why do some Palantir Gotham installations remain idle? Is it because even the simpler interface is too quirky to use when real-time events generate pressure? Is it difficult for some licensees to allocate staff to use the system in order to become masters of the dataverse?
  8. Why haven’t Wall Street pushes generated more revenue? What happened to the Thomson Reuters’ deal?
  9. How long did it take Palantir to stand up its first version of its system after the core team decided the move forward with Gotham? (If you know the answer, write benkent2020 @ yahoo dot com. We know the answer and the winner will receive a copy of CyberOSINT: Next Generation Information Access. Free too. Almost like a trial of the products and services from an intelware start up.)

There are other questions the DarkCyber team considers important as well. Perhaps a “real news” outfit will dig into the intelware market, track the technologies, the inter-company tie ups, and the use cases or in some cases the dis-use cases for these products and services?

DarkCyber, however, finds the idea of Palantir’s going public interesting. Was the point of the exercise financial escape for increasingly concerned investors and grousing employees? Too many questions and too few answers still I think.

Stephen E Arnold, October 1, 2020


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