Apple Versus Google: Does Google Win?

October 1, 2014

I read “On The Future of Apple and Google.” The bulk of the write up touches bases that are familiar to those who play softball at the Palo Alto fields. However, there was one passage that caught my attention:

The beauty of the modern mobile era is that it isn’t held back by anti-innovators like the carriers or monopolists like Microsoft and Intel who gated the pace of innovation in previous platform eras. The mobile stack has decoupled these previous incumbents from control. Today, Google is snapping up robotics companies and investing in autonomous vehicles, all of which will run futuristic versions of its operating systems and have the promise to measurably improve the way humans live.

Google seems to have the edge. Will governments cooperate. Analyses of companies near the Apple and Google stratosphere may have to find ways to deal with:

  • Closed markets or closing markets. Does China qualify?
  • Low cost competitors approved by governments? What devices will Australia find acceptable?
  • Privacy matters. Even wealthy companies want to avoid large fines. Didn’t Yahoo react when the price tag was $250,000 per day.
  • Social disruptions. Is it naive to assume that daily life will just trundle along in stable areas of the world?

My view is that dominant companies may have to find ways to remain dominant beyond copying one another, buying market share, and emulating Cornelius Vanderbilt.

Stephen E Arnold, October 1, 2014

Search: Just an Activity

September 30, 2014

Well, this is going to be a surprise for some folks at Google. After building a brand and habit for the search box at Google.com, search is just an activity. I leaned this in “Search Is No Longer a Destination. It’s an Activity.”

If I am an advertiser using AdWords or Facebook’s mechanism, I just want sales. Does the shift from activity to destination increase the value of a Facebook ad versus a Google ad.

The article points out:

Search engines have always had a hard time differentiating themselves to the masses. While digital marketers love analyzing the differences between algorithms, targeting methods, and result page layouts, the average person can’t tell much of a difference. That’s why for years “Google.com” was one of the top searches on Yahoo. That’s why despite some very clever (in my opinion) “Bing It On” TV commercials and some great case studies, Bing has had a very difficult time winning search traffic away from Google. As long as users aren’t dissatisfied with the results, they’ll keep searching wherever is convenient – often without even realizing what search engine they’re using.

Well, I am not sure that “always” is exactly on target. I think Chemical Abstracts differentiates itself quite well from Bing, Google, and a query about torts passed against Lexis. I know. I know. The article is aimed at folks who think about search in terms of Google, not the context of search and its more uninteresting manifestations.

The one point that I noted as fodder for my files was this one:

Context is the key element that powers these new search experiences. While some still contain a box where you can enter a query, their core functionality is around understanding and anticipating the searcher’s needs in the moment based on secondary signals like location, history, and other personal data the user chooses to share. And should the user need answers outside of this proactive information, voice search is the primary point of interaction.

I suppose I should be cheered that Delve, Microsoft’s search for Office 365, is going to get some blogger love. I am not exactly how a person looking for specific information will go about that task if accounts to commercial databases are not affordable and information access becomes an app.

I do not need to worry. The author provides this glimpse of the benefits of the death of traditional search:

No matter what format search marketing may take in the future, brands that build their strategy around providing valuable answers to their customers’ questions will continue to drive success in search – regardless of how the consumer searches, or if they even know what engine they’re using.

Right. When someone looks for a household cleanser, those ads for big name consumers products will fill the bill. How reassuring.

Stephen E Arnold, September 30, 2014

Tibco: Will It Regain Its Momentum?

September 29, 2014

I read “Tibco Sells Out to Private Equity in $4.3bn Deal with Vista Equity Partners.” I found Tibco interesting when I saw the servers used to power Yahoo News a number of years ago. The company is now owned by accountants and MBAs. I learned in the write up:

Tibco was founded in 1997 by its current chairman and CEO Vivek Ranadive. It was a pioneer of message-oriented middleware, particularly for the financial sector, which enables information to be pushed to multiple recipients at precisely the same time. However, Tibco’s expensive high-end proprietary software is under attack from open source in the form of the Advanced Message Queuing Protocol (AMQP), which promises not just lower-cost message queuing software, but also inter-operability between different vendors’ implementations of the open-source standard.

My recollection is that Tibco’s “information bus” made some of the old line outfits uncomfortable. Perhaps IBM? If the write up is accurate, open source is claiming a proprietary vendor.

How long will proprietary enterprise search vendors be able to keep the open source predators away? If the financial market gets the willies, the collapse of over hyped proprietary systems are likely to face high seas. Some swimmers drown in rough water even though the marketers insist the sun is shining.

Stephen E Arnold, September 29, 2014

IDC Tweets, IBM, and Content Marketing

September 29, 2014

Some Backstory

In 2012 and 2013, IDC sold my content with my name and Dave Schubmehl’s. These were nifty IDC “official” reports. The only hitch in the git along is that IDC did not trouble itself to issue a contract, get my permission, or tell me what they were doing with research my team prepared. The deal was witnessed by a law librarian, and I have a stack of emails about my research into such open source companies as Attivio, ElasticSearch (one of the disruptors of the enterprise search market), IBM (the subject of the IDC twit storm), Lucid Imagination (now Lucid Works which I write when I feel playful as Lucid works, really?), and eight other companies.

Hit by a twit storm. Rough seas ahead. Image from www.qsl.net.

In 2012, I had the open source research. IDC wanted the open source content to use in a monograph. So in front of a law librarian, IDC’s search “expert” thought the exchange of my information for open source intelligence, money, and stuff to sell was a great idea. (I have a file of email from IDC to me about what IDC wanted, but I never got a contract. But IDC had my research. Ah, those administrative delays.) IDC, however, was organized enough to additions to my company research like an open source industry overview.

In an odd approach to copyright, IDC did not produce a contract but it produced reports about four open source companies. Mr. Schubmehl and IDC just went about producing what were recycled company reports and trying to sell them at $3,500 a whack. Is that value or an example of the culture of narcissism? It may come as a surprise to you, gentle reader, but I sell research for money. I have a business model and it has worked for about 40 years. When an outfit uses the research without issuing a contract, I have to start thinking about such issues as fairness, integrity, copyright, and name surfing. Call me idiosyncratic, but when my name is used without my permission, I wonder how a big and allegedly respected organization can operate like a BearStearns-type senior executive.

Then, the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back, a librarian told me that IDC was selling a report with my name and Mr. Schubmehl’s on Amazon. Wow, Amazon, the Wal-Mart for the digital age. The reports, now removed from Amazon’s blue light special shelf cost $3,500. Not bad for eight pages of  information based on my year long research investment into the wild and volatile world of open source search and content processing. Surf’s up for Mr. Schubmehl.

Well, IDC after some prodding by my very gentle legal gerbil stopped selling my work. We received a proposal that offered me a pittance for a guarantee that I would not talk or write about this name surfing, unauthorized resale of my information on Amazon, and the flubs of Mr. Schubmehl.

My legal gerbil rejected IDC’s lawyer crafted “deal,” and I am now converting my IDC misadventure  into a metaphor for some of the deeper issues associated with “experts” and certain professional services firms. My legal gerbil suggested a significantly higher fee, but, like many of that ilk, the gerbil broke my heart.

Hence, IDC and Mr. Schubmehl’s tweets and twit storm are on my fragile ship’s radar. Let’s review the IBM IDC Schubmehl twit storm on just one day in September 2014. Trigger warning: Do not emulate the IDC Schubmehl method for your content marketing program. One day of tweets only generates a lot of twit.

Now to the Twit Storm Unleashed on September 16, 2014

Using my Overflight system, I monitor IDC tweets. Quite an interesting series of tweets appears on September 16, 2014. Mr. Schubmehl posted 25 tweets about IBM Watson.

Here are three examples of the Watson content content to which his name was attached::

  • September 16, 2014. #WatsonAnalytics uses Watson cognitive technologies to ingest structured data and find relationships – Robin Grosset & Dan Wolfson
  • September 16, 2014 Combo of cognitive with cloud analytics improves process, analysis and decision making – cognitive will change all mkts #WatsonAnalytics
  • September 16, 2014 #WatsonAnalytics will be using a freemium model….first time for IBM…

Obviously there is nothing wrong with a tweet about an IBM product. What’s one more twit emission in a flow of several hundred thousand 144 character text outputs.

There is nothing illegal with two dozen tweets about IBM. What two dozen tweets do is make me laugh and see this content marketing effort as fodder for corporate weirdness.

Also, this IBM twit storm is not on the Miley Cyrus or Lady Gaga scale, but it is notable because it is a one day twit storm quite unlike the Jeopardy journey. Quite a marketing innovation: getting an alleged “expert” to craft  16 “original” tweets in one day and issue seven retweets of tweets from others who are fans of Big Blue. A few Schubmehl tweets on the 16th illustrated diversity; for example, “The FBI’s Facial Recognition System Is Here.” Hmm. The FBI and facial recognition. I wonder why one is interested in this development.

The terms mentioned in these IBM centric tweets on September 16, 2014, reveal the marketing jargon that IBM is using to generate revenue from the game show winning technology. My list of buzzwords from the tweets read like a who’s who of blogosphere and venture oriented yak:

  • Automated data cleansing
  • Analytics (cloud based)
  • Big Data
  • Cognitive (system and capabilities)
  • Data explorer
  • Democratizing
  • Freemium
  • Natural Language Computing
  • Natural Language Query.

From this list of buzzwords my favorites are “cognitive,” “Big Data,” and the number one silly word “Freemium.” Imagine. Freemium from IBM. Imagine.

My Interpretation of the Twit Storm

Let me capture several preliminary observations:

First, the Schubmehl Twitter activity on September 16, 2014 focuses mostly on IBM’s challenged Watson business development effort. The cluster of tweets on the 16th suggest a somewhat ungainly and down-market content marketing play.

Did Mr. Schubmehl wake up on the 16th of September and decide to crank out Watson centric tweets? Did IBM pay IDC and Mr. Schubmehl to do some content marketing like thousands of PR firms do each day? We even have these outfits in Harrod’s Creek, Kentucky to flog auto sales, bourbon, and cheesy festivals in Middletown, Kentucky.

Here’s a question: “How many tweets does a McKinsey or Bain type of consulting firm issue on a single day for a single product that seems to be struggling for revenue?” If you know, please, use the comments section of this blog to provide some factoids.

Second, the tweets provide the reader with a list of what seem to be IBM Watson aficionados or employees who have the job of making the shotgun marriage of open source code, legacy Almaden technology, and proprietary scripts into a billion dollar revenue producer soon, very soon, gentle reader. The individuals mentioned in the September 16, 2014, tweets include:

  • Steve Gold, Baylor University
  • Robin Grosset, Distinguished engineer Watson Analytics.
  • Dan Wolfson, IBM Distinguished Engineer
  • Bob Picciano, Senior vice president, IBM information and analytics group.

Perhaps Mr. Gold is objective? I ask, “Do the other three IBM wizards looking at the world through IBM tinted spectacles when reading their business objectives for the current fiscal year?” I asked myself, “Should I trust these individuals who presumably are also “experts” in all things related to Watson?” My preliminary answer is, “Not for an objective view of the game show winning Watson.”

Third, what’s the payoff of this twit storm for IBM? Did IBM expect me to focus on the Schubmehl twit storm and convert the information into my idea of a 10 minute stand up comedy routine to deliver at the upcoming intelligence and law enforcement conference in nine days? Is it possible that “doing social media” looks good on a weekly report when an executive does not have juicy revenue numbers to present? The value of the effort strikes me as modest. In fact, viewed as a group, the tweets could be interpreted as a indicator of IBM’s slide into desperation marketing?

What about consulting firms and their ability to pump out high margin revenue?

Outfits like Gerson Lehrman Group have put the squeeze on mid tier consulting firms. The bottom feeders with its middle school teacher and poet contingent are not likely to sell to the IBMs of the world. GLG types companies are also nipping at the low end business of the blue chip outfits like Bain, Boston Consulting, and even McKinsey.

Put GLG can deliver to a client retired professionals from blue chip firms and on point experts. As a result, GLG has made life very, very tough for the mid tier outfits. Why pay $50,000 for an unproven “expert” when you can buy a person with a pedigree for an hour and pay a few hundred bucks when you need a factoid or an opinion? I consider IDC’s move to content marketing indicative of a fundamental shift in the character of a consulting firm’s business. The shift to low level PR work seems out of character for a professionals services with a commitment to intellectual rigor.

Every few days I learn that something called TopSEOs.com generates a list of content marketing leaders. Will IDC appear on this list?

For those who depend on lower- or mid tier consulting firms for professional counsel, how would you answer these questions:

  1. What is the intellectual substance behind pronouncements? Is there original research underpinning pronouncements and projections, or are the data culled from secondary sources and discussions with paying customers?
  2. What is the actual relationship between a mid tier consulting firm and the companies discussed in “authoritative” reports? Are these reports and projects inclusions (a fancy word for ads) or are they objective discussions of companies?
  3. Are the experts presented as “experts” actually experts or are they individuals who want to hit revenue goals while keeping costs as low as possible?

I don’t have definitive answers to these questions. Perhaps one day I can use a natural language query to tap into Big Data and rely on cognitive methods to provide answers.

For now, a one day twit storm is a wonderful example of how not to close deals, build reputations, and stimulate demand for advanced technology offered via a “Freemium” model. What the heck does that mean anyway?

Stephen E Arnold, September 29, 2014

IBM and JSON: Everything Is Better with an X

September 26, 2014

Short honk: “WTF Is Wrong with IBM?” is a glimpse of how a standard becomes something that an IBM engineer must fix. Why does this happen? Er, billing big companies down the road? How easy will it be to work with IBM’s version of Lucene?

Stephen E Arnold, September 26, 2014

Quote to Note: From the SEO World about Google and News Corp.

September 26, 2014

I tucked this paragraph in my keepers’ file:

Yes, there’s plenty Google does that raises concerns. The growth in showing direct answers taken from other sites, the inability for people to understand if they were hit by an automatic penalty, the failure to update some of its automatic filtering systems in a timely manner are some of these. And Google deserves criticism over them. But News Corp has a long history of lashing out at Google in ways that exaggerate some concerns way beyond reality. For a media giant that could take a real leadership role, its latest more-of-the-same letter is a disappointment.

The source is “Dear News Corp & Google: An Open Letter On Their Open Letters To Each Other Over Competition.” I find this fascinating for three reasons:

First, I chuckled with the notion that search engine optimization helps explain the actions of two hyper capitalist operations. (SEO is one business focused squarely on manipulating precision and recall when one runs a search. Hey, this is the brave new world of search. The customer’s information need is secondary to sizzle and ad revenue.)

Second, the squabbling of actual / would be monopolists is a reprise of the Vanderbilt – Gould dust ups. Does anyone remember what happened? The fellows teamed up. Could this happen again?

Third, both companies take a dim view of nation states’ strictures unless it is to their advantage. The approach is, it seems, situational. However, when a government can disadvantage another operation, the law is truth and beauty.

Stephen  E Arnold, September 26, 2014

Google-News Corp. Marvelous, He Said, She Said

September 26, 2014

I don’t have a dog in this hunt. I think both Google and News Corp. are wonderful. Weaknesses, none. Both companies just have strengths. Google has its Washington, DC lobbying effort and News Corp. has Fox News. Google has its ups and downs with the privacy issue (except at Stanford University). News Corp. has that alleged telephone tapping matter. Google has legions of users in Europe. News Corp. has fingers clutching newspapers, eyeballs watching television, and some Web users.

One big difference. Google is a  15 year old adolescent. News Corp. is an aged information company.

The two, like a May December romance gone sour will face nothing but irreconcilable differences. Need an example? Check out this blog post from the Google charmingly labeled “Dear Rupert.” See, Google does have a sense of humor.

I don’t have the energy to walk through the arguments and counter arguments. I do want to highlight one point and comment about it. News Corp. leaves a door open with its comment: “Google’s “power” makes it hard for people to “access information independently and meaningfully.” Google is “willing to exploit [its] dominant market position to stifle competition.

The Google response is wonderful. I believe that Commodore Vanderbilt, Jay Gould, John D. Rockefeller (oops sorry. He’s apoplectic about his descendants’ dumping holdings in fossil fuels), and JP Morgan (you remember: the fellow whose portrait makes it appear he is holding a knife as he starts to push himself from a chair) could not have collectively inked a better response:

With the Internet, people enjoy greater choice than ever before — and because the competition is just one click away online, barriers to switching are very, very low.

Well, I sort of enjoy the one click notion, but the reality for online users is that once a habit is formed, users have a tough time breaking it. Google is a habit with a market share only a drug lord can seek: 95% of users in Denmark, 66% of users in the US, 95 percent of users in France (gasp, France, home of Exalead, the former Quaero brain trust centroid, and numerous search vendors), etc. For more data see http://bit.ly/1nwgGrw.

Add to the monopoly position Google search controls, competition is few and far between. Bing.com is just not able to gain significant market share from the GOOG. The hot ticket search engines according to search “experts” are Ixquick.com and DuckDuckGo.com. Er, there are metasearch engines and need access to other vendors’ indexes. As metasearch vendors, as search vendors doing primary indexing bite the dust, these outfits face some tough choices if they want to stay in business. The little known Exalead search,  which is almost unknown, offers a tiny fraction of the GOOG’s coverage. And Yandex? Well, Mr. Putin may make it difficult for that outfit to remain in business without picking up and heading to a new campground.

One click? Nope. As users shift to mobile devices, the information access mode shifts to applications or apps. Maybe News Corp. can tackle Google in this new space. I am not sure, however, if those who know how to do intercepts focus much on cutting Google off at the knees with an appealing online ad platform.

You can work through the rest of the arguments. Remember, you are one click away from finding a new search engine.

Stephen E Arnold, September 26, 2014

IBM and Big Iron

September 20, 2014

I read an interesting article about IBM. “IBM – A New Behemoth, or a Wounded Beast?” I noted that IBM is continuing to rely on Big Iron for some revenue. The write up reported:

IBM is pushing the mainframe as a Linux engine.  Sales of the mainframe continue to be strong, and the majority of sales now include Linux capabilities.  Although the mainframe is not an engine for everyone, it shows no sign of fading away, and will remain a core part of IBM’s future.

The argument in the article is less on IBM as either a behemoth or a beast. The article suggests that it has a flawed strategy with regard to Intel x86 systems.

IBM faces some significant growth hurdles, and the company has not formulated a winning strategy for its cloud solutions as Amazon, Google, and Microsoft take aim at IBM’s approach to enterprise cloud computing.

Furthermore, IBM is betting on Watson to generate billions in revenue. Is there a strategic vision behind Watson or the allied Cognos-SPSS-i2 lines of business.

What this article does is make very clear that IBM has some significant issues with regard to its corporate strategy. Both HP and IBM are increasingly vulnerable in multiple lines of business. Maybe enterprise apps will generate the types of revenue lift IBM enjoyed in its salad days? But then, maybe not?

Stephen E Arnold, September 20, 2014

Google and Its Possible Really, Really Big Ambitions

September 19, 2014

I read “Looking Past the Search Results: Google 2.0 Will Build Airports and Cities Says Report.” The “report” appears to be the work of an outfit doing business as “The Information.” The founder of The Information is Jessica E. Lessin. She was a Wall Street Journal reporter. She morphed into a “reportrepreneur.” (See About the Information for more about the company.)

The “report” costs money. The Independent’s summary of the main idea reveals:

Larry Page has set up a ‘company within a company’ dubbed ‘Google 2.0’ that will look at the tech giant’s long-term future – presumably for when advertising revenue from search traffic (inevitably) dries up.

The “report” suggests that Google may build airports and cities. I assume these will complement the Loon, Glass, Death, and other moon shot projects.

The Independent reports that Google may form Google Y Labs. No word on Google Z.

I must admit that when I saw the headline, someone had stumbled across my 2007 monograph published by a now defunct UK outfit. That monograph was called “Google Version 2.0.”

I was wrong. The 2014 version 2.0 moves into far more speculative realms than my modest effort to explore some of Google’s technical plumbing. That’s why there are no big thinkers in rural Kentucky. Better to be a big thinker, reportrepreneur.

My view is that Google faces some significant challenges; for example, the company has yet to find a fast ramp solution to the difference between old style online advertising based on the Yahoo/Overture/GoTo model for desktop computers and the new, limited screen real estate of mobile devices. Google has demonstrated that it is vulnerable to regulators in Europe. Google has lagged Amazon in the cloud market and most recently in buying a top level domain. Now Apple is probing Google in terms of its apparent willingness to trade on customer content. There are some other issues. Some are big like the management structure at Google. Some are small like the interpersonal interactions of a Google manager, a colleague, and the surprising departure of a wizard to Amazon.

Google is interesting because it seems to have fulfilled Steve Ballmer’s prophecy of the GOOG as a one trick pony. I think Google 3.0 may be a better name for the new “report.”

Stephen E Arnold, September 19, 2014

Is Google Slowing Down?

September 19, 2014

Perish the thought. I am confident that Google is the lean, mean money making machine with the swiftness of Hermes (the Greek god, not the maker of the parfum Eau des Merveilles).

Amazon somehow ended up with a video service of people watching video games. I read that the profit free digital WalMart snagged the top level domain dot Buy.

Wow: Amazon.com Buys .Buy for $4.6 Million, .Tech Sells for $6.8 Million” stated:

Amazon beat Google, Donuts and Famous Four Media in the auction. PVT Registry did not participate. Only two bidders bid above $1.5 million.

The likelihood of a Google-Zon emerging seems to have diminished a bit.

Who will win the next sprint? Mr. Bezos or the dynamic duo of Messrs. Brin and Page.

Stephen E Arnold, September 19, 2014

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