A Tale of Two Seattle Outfits: One Zippy, One Not So Zippy

December 1, 2017

I read “Microsoft Corporation Stacks the Deck Against AWS with Azure Stack.” The main idea from my point of view is:

Piper Jaffray analyst Alex Zukin said in a note this week that he believes Azure Stack will play a major role in the growth of Microsoft’s cloud business. He describes Azure Stack as “the first hybrid cloud platform with a direct connection to a pure hyperscale cloud,” which enables developers to “write once and use anywhere.”

Maybe so. I noted that Amazon is democratizing smart software with Sagemaker. (Hopefully it will do better than the company which used the name in the 1990s.) Also, Amazon is nosing into “real time” translation.

Amazon strikes me as having a better business model, more innovative consumer and enterprise products, and richer sustainable revenue streams.

Oh, Microsoft is going to do games which, I assume, someone will play on the wonky Surface desktop computer.

Stephen E Arnold, December 1, 2017

Consumer Health Search: An Angle for an Amazon Black Friday Sale?

November 24, 2017

I read “How Consumers Search for Health Care.” What struck me as interesting about this article’s information was that the data reminded me of research conducted i 1986 by the one time commercial online giant Information Access, a unit of Ziff Communications. We developed the Health Reference Center, which was an innovative service at that time. A kiosk allowed a user to obtain curated information about a medical condition. I recall we placed these Health Reference Centers in libraries and a handful of forward thinking health care facilities. We did tons of research, and the product included a number of interesting features.

I matched the findings reported in the article with my recollection of some of the research we conducted as part of the IAC product development process. One finding which was decidedly different was the preference for millennials for convenience. If the data in the article are accurate, 40 percent of the millennials in the sample like convenience which translates to mobile usage and online scheduling.

Other data points were in line with the findings from three decades ago; for example, ease of use and finding solutions that would be covered by insurance companies.

What do these data suggest? Health care is unlikely to be able to deal with expectations for mobile scheduling and patient convenience. As for shopping around for a deal on a treatment or procedure, Amazon, not established health care providers, may be encouraged to enter the field.

Black Friday deals on nose jobs and hip replacements may sound interesting to the Bezos behemoth. Use an Amazon credit card? One might get some Amazon credits which might be applied to the next procedure. Prime cut?

Stephen E Arnold, November 24, 2017

Amazon: The New Old AT&T

November 22, 2017

I read “AWS Launches a Secret Region for the U.S. Intelligence Community.” The write up does a reasonable job of explaining that Amazon has become a feisty pup in the Big Dog in the upscale Potomac Fever Kennels.

The main idea, as I understand it, is that Amazon is offering online services tailored to agencies with requirements for extra security. Google is trying to play in this dog park as well, but Amazon seems to have the moxie to make headway.

I would point out that there are some facets to the story which a “real” journalist or a curious investor may want to explore; specifically:

  • AT&T of Ashburn fame may be feeling that the attitude of the Amazon youthful puppy AWS is bad news. AT&T with its attention focused on the bright lights of big media may be unable to deal with Amazon’s speed, agility, and reflexes. If this is accurate, this seemingly innocuous announcement with terms like “air gap” may presage a change in the fortunes of AT&T.
  • IBM Federal Systems, the traffic disaster in Gaithersburg, may feel the pinch as well. What happens if the young pup begins to take kibble from that Beltway player? A few acquisitions here and few acquisitions there and suddenly Amazon can have its way because the others in the kennel know that an alpha dog with tech savvy can be a problem?
  • The consulting environment may also change. For decades, outfits like my former employer, the Boozer, have geared up to bathe, groom, and keep healthy the old school online giants like AT&T, Verizon, et al. Now new skills sets may be required for the possible Big Dog. Where will Amazon “experts” come from? Like right now, gentle reader.

In short, this article states facts. But like many “real” news stories, there are deeper and possibly quite significant changes taking place. I wonder if anyone cares about these downstream changes.

Leftover telecom turkey anyone?

Stephen E Arnold, November 22, 2017

It Is Time Our Tech Giants Went on a Goodwill Tour

November 22, 2017

As our tech giants pull in more cash, it’s time they gave more back to society. But how? That’s the central question of a fascinating Business Week article, “Hate Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google? Get in Line.”

According to the story:

All of the sudden our tech giants find themselves in a PR pickle: They are posting record earnings and seem unstoppable in business, but they desperately need to convince the public they’re not scarier than a pack of velociraptors on meth.

The story partially follows California congressional candidate, Ro Khanna, who thinks he has some answers for these hated behemoths.

Khanna wants the tech giants to see this moment as an opportunity—“a chance to respond to the challenges facing our country,” he wrote. “The hope is that they will answer the nation’s call to advance the common good, from expanding job opportunity to communities across the country to ensuring that online platforms do not contribute to polarization or misinformation.

This is a chance for those behemoths to really make an impact on something other than their pocketbooks. Perhaps, these businesses like Amazon and Facebook, which are obsessed with the real-time operation can extend that to charitable deeds. To see a real-time charitable impact, like this would likely surge giving.

Patrick Roland, November 22, 2017

Amazon and Microsoft Team up Again on Machine Learning

November 21, 2017

Recently, tech giants Amazon and Microsoft made public a new partnership. No, they’re not splitting Seahawks season tickets in their mutual hometown of Seattle. In fact, they are pooling their collective brain powers to advance machine learning and we should all sit up and take notice. We learned this from a recent InfoQ article, “Microsoft and Amazon Collaborate on Machine Learning.”

As the article states about the pair’s new AI product, Gluon:

Gluon is an open-source deep learning and neural network solution that is exposed through a Python-based API. It comes with prebuilt neural network components that can be created on the fly and used to train algorithms making it easier to define, debug, iterate and reuse components.

 

Gluons brings support for programming techniques not found in other frameworks, such as dynamic graphs, and has deep support for sparse data which is often found in natural language processing.

This might sound like a strange one-off, but we are actually seeing this kind of partnership cropping up more and more. In fact, these two recently paired to make sure their virtual assistant programs could communicate with one another, which were met with great acclaim. Perhaps the days of incompatibility are over in the tech world and it will no longer matter if you are a Mac or a PC, maybe someday, if partnerships like this continue, they will work together no matter what.

Patrick Roland, November 21, 2017

Mongo DB Position upon Filing IPO

November 9, 2017

This article at Datamation, “MongoDB’s Mongo Moment,” suggests MongoDB is focused on the wrong foe. As the company filed for its $100 million IPO, its CEO Dev Ittycheria observed that competitor Oracle is “vulnerable” because it has lost appeal to developers. However, writer Matt Asay asserts developers never were very fond of Oracle, and that MondoDB’s real competition is AWS (Amazon Web Services). He posits:

As mentioned, however, the real question isn’t about MongoDB’s impact on Oracle, any more than MySQL had a material impact on Oracle. No, the question is how relevant MongoDB is to the growing population of modern applications. Quite simply: this is where the action is. As VMware executive (and former MongoDB executive) Jared Rosoff reasons, ‘Old workloads grew one database server at a time. New workloads add tens or hundreds of servers at a time.’

Indeed, as MongoDB vice president of cloud products Sahir Azam told me in an interview, ‘We see a higher percentage of legacy RDBMS moving to MongoDB. Tens of billions of spend that has traditionally gone to Oracle and other SQL vendors is now moving to open source RDBMS and MongoDB with app refreshes and new apps.’

Mongo has a significant advantage over AWS, writes Asay, in the flexibility it offers developers. He also notes the increased spending power developers are now enjoying within enterprises should help the company. One potential pitfall—Mongo spends way too much on marketing, which could cause investors to shy away. On the whole, however, Asay believes MongoDB is navigating a shifting market wisely. See the article for more on the company’s approach and some criticisms it has received. Founded in 2007, MongoDB is based in New York City and employs over 800 workers in locations around the world.

Cynthia Murrell, November 9, 2017

What Will Marketers Do When Google Goes Away?

November 6, 2017

Wait, do not panic!  Google is still around to help you search for restaurants, test answers, and cat GIFs.  Keep your towel handy, however, because Mark Schaefer at Business Grow has some mighty interesting information about SEO and other Internet marketing strategies in, “What Happens To Your Marketing Effort When Google Search Goes Away?”  Schaefer makes a clever point in the article’s introduction that consumers are searching for reliable answers to their queries, but businesses are trying to be the number one answer or top search result at any given time.

It might be that search results are going away.  Where are they going?  Technically, search results will still exist, but voice search tools like Siri and Alexia will be the game changer.  Schaefer said that no one has invented a vocal search marketing strategy yet.  Smart speakers are one of the latest tech gadgets and eventually, they may become indispensable modern tools, like indoor plumbing, electricity, and the Internet.  So what will happen?

From a marketing standpoint, the idea that fascinates me is that increasingly, these speakers will be the “economic on-ramp” for commerce, as Google search is now. However, Amazon will try to direct you to the Amazon eco-system and Apple will try to keep you in the Apple eco-system. This is where the real battleground will be.

 

Who will “own” or partner with the Wal-Mart eco-system?  Will we choose a car in the future due to the brand of smart speaker we like best?  Will one part of our home be controlled by Google, another part by Amazon, while an Apple device plays out TV and music?

Marketers are going to need to find a new way to advertise their wares.  Looking back at history, this is not new.  The same happened with radio, TV, and then the Internet.  Smart speaker “airspace” is brand new, but the concept of marketing on the new territory is not.

Whitney Grace, November 6, 2017

Amazon Google Money Factoids

October 29, 2017

I noted the financial results of Amazon and Google. Amazon reported third quarter sales of $43 billion. Google tallied revenues of $27.7 billion. Amazon has multiple revenue streams; Google is making Steve Ballmer’s one-trick pony comment hold true. Will Google close the revenue gap? Will Amazon stumble?

Stephen E Arnold, October 29, 2017

Amazon on the Bezos Hot Seat?

October 26, 2017

I read “Amazon Key Is Silicon Valley at Its Most Out of Touch.” The article appeared in a newspaper which I believe is owned by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos. Independent journalism is alive and well in Washington, DC. The angle for the story is that one can buy an Amazon product which only an Amazon “delivery person” can open. Even better the gizmo will make a video. The goal is to eliminate the Amazon boxes piled outside of doors. I have heard that in some neighborhoods, people help themselves to these Amazon boxes with the smiling arrow logo. I noted this passage from the write up which seems to be a Bezos supported criticism of Bezos’ latest and greatest idea:

Amazon wants to let strangers into your house and train a surveillance camera on your front door. Oh, and they’d like you to pay them $250 for the privilege.

I also highlighted this passage:

Yes, I do value convenient deliveries, but I value my security more — better to strategize around postal schedules than be assaulted by a person hiding in one’s home! And while I dislike rained-upon packages, I prioritize privacy enough that I’m loath to install a corporate-controlled surveillance apparatus inside my house.

Independence is good. What if the company requires the Amazon Key? I suppose there are other newspapers eager to hire independent thinkers who criticize the do no wrong Amazon thing. No one in Washington gets fired for rowing the canoe against the Potomac currents.

Stephen E Arnold, October 26, 2017

Google Search Data Utilized for Financial Analysis

October 6, 2017

Here is a short honk to point out an interesting new use for search data. A financial analyst is relying on it to make a key prediction, CNBC reports in, “Analyst Predicts Great Amazon Sales Results Because of What He Sees in Google Search Data.” Reporter Tae Kim writes:

Piper Jaffray’s Michael Olson reaffirmed his overweight rating for Amazon, citing the company’s web search analysis which pointed to robust June quarter sales growth for the e-commerce giant. …

Olson said the firm’s web analysis revealed search interest for Amazon-related words grew 24 percent year over year in the June quarter versus 23 percent growth in the March quarter. He cited how Piper’s search analysis had a 95 percent correlation with Amazon’s retail sales unit growth in the previous 37 quarters.

Such interest may be spurred by Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods, and by the company’s strong growth in this year’s second quarter. The innovative analyst’s company, Piper Jaffray, has been in business since 1895. It is nice to see a venerable firm embrace a fresh idea, but will Olson’s prediction prove correct?

Cynthia Murrell, October 6, 2017

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