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Watson, Whither Weather?

February 2, 2016

i read “IBM Closes Weather Co. Purchase, Names David Kenny New Head of Watson Platform.” Big news. Watson is a platform and there is a new big rainmaker in charge of the alleged $10 billion revenue machine based on Lucene, acquired technology, home brew scripts, and weather data.

Weather is important. I agree. If I cannot look out the window, I am flummoxed.

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The write up reveals:

As part of the deal, IBM is making some changes: First, the Weather Company’s cloud platform will now run on IBM’s Cloud data centers (recall that it once was a big client of AWS). That platform will now power all of IBM’s wider push into data services and Watson’s Internet of Things business. This will bring a massively bigger amount of data into the mix, covering what IBM describes as billions of IoT sensors. IBM will also use its weight to scale the Weather Company’s business: the company plans to expand weather.com into five more markets including China, India and Brazil “immediately”, as well as integrate it into IBM’s 45 global cloud centers.

I think this means that IBM is going to embrace an acquired company’s cloud platform. That’s okay. Does this suggest that IBM’s cloud platform is not very good? I will have to noodle on this a moment.

Okay, done. Yes, IBM’s cloud technology is less efficacious that the Weather Co.’s.

Next, I learned from the write up:

The Weather Channel — perhaps the Weather Company’s most mainstream product — is not included. But as part of the sale, under a long-term contract, it will license weather data forecasts and analytics now owned by IBM.

Er, okay. So it was the technology and fellow David Kenny.

Who is he?

A quick check revealed these items about the rainmaker:

  • LinkedIn says he is a general manager, not a rainmaker. Good to know.
  • He’s been a director of Best Buy and Yahoo. Okay, those are two firms which have made financial lightning.
  • He was the president of Akamai for 15 months. That’s helpful, but I wonder is Akamai is the foundation of his cloud method and if there may be intellectual property issues. Nah, probably not.
  • He worked at a PR firm. This is good. I want to see more of the Watson recipe and game show information.
  • He was a Bainie. This is helpful background.

In my view, the Watson platform will be able to sidestep the issues raised in “The Truth about Bain.”

Will the Weather thing make Watson the perfect storm in IBM revenues? I am no weather person, but it looks as if it is cloudy with a chance for drizzle, then steadily falling temperatures, and a possibility of icy roads for tomorrow’s morning drive.

Fill your tank and take an energy bar. Delays are likely.

Stephen E Arnold, February 2, 2016

Metadata Could Play Integral Role in Data Security

February 2, 2016

A friend recently told me how they can go months avoiding suspicious emails, spyware, and Web sites on her computer, but the moment she hands her laptop over to her father he downloads a virus within an hour.  Despite the technology gap existing between generations, the story goes to show how easy it is to deceive and steal information these days.  ExpertClick thinks that metadata might hold the future means for cyber security in “What Metadata And Data Analytics Mean For Data Security-And Beyond.”

The article uses biological analogy to explain metadata’s importance: “One of my favorite analogies is that of data as proteins or molecules, coursing through the corporate body and sustaining its interrelated functions. This analogy has a special relevance to the topic of using metadata to detect data leakage and minimize information risk — but more about that in a minute.”

This plays into new companies like, Ayasdi, using data to reveal new correlations using different methods than the standard statistical ones.  The article compares this to getting to the data atomic level, where data scientists will be able to separate data into different elements and increase the analysis complexity.

“The truly exciting news is that this concept is ripe for being developed to enable an even deeper type of data analytics. By taking the ‘Shape of Data’ concept and applying to a single character of data, and then capturing that shape as metadata, one could gain the ability to analyze data at an atomic level, revealing a new and unexplored frontier. Doing so could bring advanced predictive analytics to cyber security, data valuation, and counter- and anti-terrorism efforts — but I see this area of data analytics as having enormous implications in other areas as well.”

There are more devices connected to the Internet than ever before and 2016 could be the year we see a significant rise in cyber attacks.  New ways to interpret data will leverage predictive and proactive analytics to create new ways to fight security breaches.

Whitney Grace, February 2, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

 

HP, Now Xerox, and Maybe Palantir?

February 1, 2016

HP, after its fascinating board room machinations, its acquisition of Autonomy, and the subsequent legal frou-frou, is two companies. How are these outfits doing? Don’t ask.

Now, if McPaper is on the money Xerox will become two outfits. “Xerox Makes Official Its Split into Two Companies.” (If this link is dead, buzz Gannett, not me, gentle reader.)

According to the write up:

Xerox will separate into two companies, a $11 billion document technology company and a $7 billion business services company…

I am not sure that the hardware side will thrive. Services? Maybe.

But what struck me as I read about Xerox is this:

Palantir Technologies can split its commercial sector out and take it public. The government work can remain private.

Everyone with a stake in the outfit becomes Willy Wonka happy. Think of the money. Why even the smallest Hobbit will be able to buy a house near the Shire.

How likely is this move?

Well, after ingesting $2 billion or so over the last six years, the economic pressure on some of the stakeholders might trigger a chit chat or two.

Taking the commercial side of Palantir public might explain the number of rumors swirling that two thirds of Palantir’s revenues come from non government work.

Check out your seeing stone for the big picture or better yet, plug the data into IBM i2 Analyst Notebook and see what connections you can discern.

Stephen E Arnold, February 1, 2016

Glass: Forgetting Failure

January 31, 2016

I loved the entire Google Glass innovation. From the hiring of Babak Amirparviz (the man with many names) to the comments of Astro Teller (you know, the relative of the father of the hydrogen bomb) to the alleged attraction between a big Googler and a smaller Googler which contributed to the Xiaomi mobile business.

I recall that felicitous word glasshole. I enjoyed the shift of Google Glass to a fashion statement. Math club folks always have had a keen sense of style.

I read “Google Erases Memory of Glass” hopeful I would learn some more about Google Glass. (Doesn’t Google “delete” or “break” stuff. “Erase” does not do the job with a wonky head mounted computer thing that sort of puts a smartphone on one’s head.)

I noted this statement:

Google seems to have wiped all the content from the social media channels associated with Google Glass. The Glass Explorers group on Google+ has been completely erased, while Glass’ Facebook and Twitter have been deleted completely.

I thought Glass was a business product and service. According to the write up, the name “glass” may not survive the convenient revisionism underway.

Wait. Who was that ruler who rewrote history books? Maybe Stalin? Who can forget even if history is revised? Did Googler have to fill out a request to be removed for the Glass adventure?

Stephen E Arnold, January 31, 2016

Yahoo Says Adios to Argentina and Mexico

January 30, 2016

Years ago Yahoo pulled out of Denmark. Yahoo has trimmed its international operations over time. I read “In Latest Shakeup, Yahoo Quits Mexico, Argentina.” Several points in the write up caught my attention.

First, Yahoo is described as “troubled” by its local newspaper. The “real” journalists are wondering what the Yahooligans will do to reform themselves.

Second, I liked the characterization of the Argentina and Mexico operations as “not worth future investment.” There you go. Yahoo sees the land of gauchos and guacamole as lacking financial magnetism.

Third, the write up points out that Yahoo sees Brazil as a growth opportunity. Yahoo must know something about the Brazilian economy. I used to live in the country, and from what I hear some of cities are not likely to be friendly to folks dressed in purple. Brazil possesses more than 18 of the most dangerous cities in the world. And the Brazilian economy? Zipping right along. And the Zika.

Yahoo has great instincts. The revenues will surely follow.

Stephen E Arnold, January 30, 2016

Search Almost Did Not Make the Graph

January 30, 2016

I read “323 Marketing Tech Startups Fetched over $11B from VCs in 2015 (Research).” The write up suggested to me that a horse racing stable mentality appears to have some appeal for the venture capital crowd. The theory has two parts.

First, the outfits are acting a bit like sheep. Second, the belief is that some of these horses will win the Kentucky Derby. That’s fine. I don’t have to explain to investors where the money went nor do I have to figure out how to repay the investors who want their money back or a payout pronto.

The chart reveals another facets of the data. Here’s a tiny version of the chart:

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You will have to consult the original post to read the labels on the y axis. Note that “search” appears, but it is a brushing shoulders in the long tail with SEO and market research. In short, at the far right hand edge of the y axis. Investors supporting the long shots are brave steed owners.

Now check out the title of the write up. Do you see “marketing tech”? I do. It strikes me that research is not important to “marketing tech” as a broad sector.

But what are the top three sectors sucking cash? Answer:

  • Analytics
  • Ad tech
  • Design
  • Social
  • Data infrastructure.

Will search regain its former glory? Probably not. Mules amidst the stallions? Nah, search vendors can just change their marketing lingo.

Stephen E Arnold, January 30, 2016

Palantir: Revenue Distribution

January 27, 2016

I came across a write up in a Chinese blog about Palantir. You can find the original text at this link. I have no idea if the information are accurate, but I had not seen this breakdown before:

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The chart from “Touchweb” shows that in FY 2015 privately held Palantir derives 71 percent of its revenue from commercial clients.

The report then lists the lines of business which the company offers. Again this was information I had not previously seen:

Energy, disaster recovery, consumer goods, and card services

  • Retail, pharmaceuticals, media, and insurance
  • Audit, legal prosecution
  • Cyber security, banking
  • Healthcare research
  • Local law enforcement, finance
  • Counter terrorism, war fighting, special forces.

Because Palantir is privately held, there is not solid, audited data available to folks in Kentucky at this time.

Nevertheless, the important point is that the Palantir search and content processing platform has a hefty valuation, lots of venture financing, and what appears to be a diversified book of business.

Stephen E Arnold, January 27, 2016

Microsoft: Deep Learning Freebie

January 27, 2016

Every big out in the money collecting biz wants to give away smart software tools. A trend methinks. Navigate to “Microsoft Releases CNTK, Its Open Source Deep Learning Toolkit, on GitHub.” The write up reveals:

In internal tests, Huang said CNTK has proved more efficient  than four other popular computational toolkits that developers use to create deep learning models for things like speech and image recognition, because it has better communication capabilities. “The CNTK toolkit is just insanely more efficient than anything we have ever seen,” Huang [Microsoft wizard] said.

Who would not believe this? A person struggling to get the new Surface to work? An individual bedeviled by Windows 10 nag screens? A hapless corporate information technology person trying to recover a corrupted PowerPoint from Microsoft’s cloud service? A Bing user trying to figure out where the shopping side of the world’s best search system for Yahooligans is hiding?

The write up also asserted:

Huang said it was important for his team to be able to address Microsoft’s internal needs with a tool like CNTK, but they also want to provide the same resources to other researchers who are making similar advances in deep learning. That’s why they decided to make the tools available via open source licenses to other researchers and developers.

Absolutely. Google gives away Chromebooks and Microsoft gives away its smart software tools. Altruism, your time has come.

Stephen E Arnold, January 26, 2016

 

 

Myanmar in Mobile: A Reminder of How Easy It Is to Make Assumptions

January 25, 2016

I suggest you read the write up “The Facebook Loving Farmers of Myanmar.” Useful information. You can work through the article and get a sense of the importance of connectivity to farmers in a region which is quite a bit different from Silicon Valley and Route 128.

I want to highlight two points which I noted. My hunch is that these will be different from many other folks’ reaction to the article.

The first point is a reference to the failure of the “one laptop per child” thing cooked up by someone in the US of A’s right coast. Here’s the quote I highlighted:

But the more we probe, the less justifiable the Samsung premium becomes. The Chinese phones are cheap but capable. I wonder if this makes Negroponte happy. His one laptop-per-child dream was never fully realized but one smartphone-per-human—far more capable and sensible than a laptop, in many ways—has most certainly arrived. I take notes.

The point is that traditional desktops and laptops are not what has captured the attention of the farmers of Myanmar. The shift to phones, Chinese phones in particular, can be described as a miss, a big miss for the “one laptop per child” idea. How many other high tech beliefs are going to be shown to be just wrong enough? This, for me, is a reminder that what seems obvious to those on the left and right coasts in the United States are pitching the equivalent of snowshoes to people who live where it does not snow.

The second point I circled was:

I realize then that smartphone tech crossed the Good Enough threshold years ago.

What if the money pumped into improving smartphones by making them bigger, smaller, in different colors, etc. is a living, breathing example of diminishing returns. No mater what the phone designers and manufacturers cook up, the pay back will keep getting smaller. Apple is becoming mobile dependent. Google is becoming mobile dependent. What if these investments creep toward lower and lower returns. In a lousy economic environment, could there be financial trouble ahead for these and allied companies?

My hunch is that there are more farmers in Myanmar type folks than there are those who can get hired at the likes of the sparkling tech citadels on the left and right coast of the US, the silicon fen, and the other confections of techno-wizardry.

The one laptop per child play was not just wrong by a little; it was wrong by a mile unless Google knows something the folks in Myanmar do not. See “Google Donates More Than $5 Million to Give Chromebooks to Refugees.”

Stephen E Arnold, January 25, 2016

Evidence Pay for Traffic Works

January 22, 2016

I read “Google Paid Apple $1 Billion to Be the Default Search on iOS.” If this is indeed accurate, there are some interesting notions one can derive from the number.

The write up states:

$1 billion. That’s how much Google paid Apple in 2014 to be the default search app on the iPhone, according to court transcripts obtained by Bloomberg. As you might imagine, neither company is too happy about their business deal being made public, and as the publication notes, the court transcript “vanished without a trace” late yesterday. But whether that was because the court in the ongoing litigation between Google and Oracle eventually bowed to the whims of Cupertino and Mountain View’s requests for redaction isn’t clear.

My thought is that search engine optimization is pretty much a waste of time. If SEO worked, the dear Alphabet Google thing would just use wonky tricks and move on. If a Web or mobile site wants traffic, pay for it. Buy Adwords. Simple.

But no.

The Google is paying for exposure to Apple fans and getting traffic. The traffic leads to goodies like ad revenue and data.

Does anyone care? Nah. Search means Google, and if one can’t find it on Google, the information does not exist as I understand the matter.

Stephen E Arnold, January 21, 2016

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