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Google and EC: The Exclusives May Be a Problem Like Death

July 20, 2016

I read “European Trustbusters Torpedo Google.” The write up focused my attention on Google exclusives. The point is that Google allegedly used exclusive constraints to keep its alleged monopoly chugging along. I highlighted several statements in the write up; for example:

in these agreements with Direct Partners, Google has breached EU antitrust rules by imposing the following conditions:

  • Exclusivity: requiring third parties not to source search ads from Google’s competitors.
  • Premium placement of a minimum number of Google search ads: requiring third parties to take a minimum number of search ads from Google and reserve the most prominent space on their search results pages to Google search ads. In addition, competing search ads cannot be placed above or next to Google search ads.
  • Right to authorize competing ads: requiring third parties to obtain Google’s approval before making any change to the display of competing search ads.

The write up contains other zingers; to wit:

  1. “But twin conjoined monopolies AdSense and search create barriers to competition.” Ah,conjoined.
  2. “Trustbusters in Europe, and also the United States, look enormously unfavorably at monopolies that engage in exclusive agreements, whether implicit or implied, that protect market dominance—or expand it.” Exclusives, goodness.

Alphabet Google has, according to the write up, 10 weeks to get back to the EU. Will the dog eat Google’s homework again? Google is working to solve the problem of death? Will Google find a solution to the death and taxes challenges? Trivial, right?

Stephen E Arnold, July 20, 2016

Coveo Changes Its Positioning

July 20, 2016

Short honk: Coveo, the Canadian enterprise search outfit, has changed its positioning. I should probably say “added to” it positioning as an information retrieval vendor. “Montreal Opening for Big Data Search Firm Coveo” reports that the company has a new office in Montréal. What I noticed was the description of Coveo as a “big data search firm.” The company has been describing itself as a customer support solution and a vendor of unified search. But Big Data is a thing, so it makes sense that an information processing outfit would embrace the moniker. The write up reports that a Coveo wizard said:

We have an amazing pipeline of cloud solutions, and the integration of machine learning, artificial intelligence and data-driven personalization to our technology creates huge market opportunities. We believe Montreal is the best place for us to build on this momentum and assert our position as market leader.

The write up does not mention if any provincial or national subsidies were provided to Coveo. I am no expert on Canada, but I have heard that incentives, including salary support, have been made available to firms meeting certain criteria.

Stephen E Arnold, July 20, 2016

Palantir Causes Army to Slam on the DCGS Anti Skid Brakes

July 19, 2016

My hunch is that there are some unhappy campers in the US Army’s DCGS program. Hey, delays interrupt the billing cycles for affected vendors. Based on my experience with some of DC’s biggest defense contractors, billing is often Job One for some folks. It may also be Jobs Two and Three as well. The work does come along, however.

Why mash the brake peddle in the US Army’s One:1?

Navigate to “Army Will Hold Off on DCGS-A Award as Palantir Lawsuit Plays Out.” The write up states:

Palantir Technologies filed a lawsuit with the court on June 30 against the Army for issuing what it says is an unlawful procurement solicitation for the service’s Distributed Common Ground System-Army (DCGS-A) that presumably shuts the company’s commercial offering — the Gotham platform — out of the competition. Palo-Alto, California-based Palantir argues that the lawsuit was necessary because the Army should be stopped from moving forward on an unlawful and risk-prone software development project that would reinvent the wheel at a very high price. The Silicon Valley company has also filed a motion for permanent injunction to prevent the Army from moving forward with its DCGS-A program until the court has made a ruling on the case.

The June 30, 2016, complaint is sealed. This means that an outsider in Harrod’s Creek cannot read the document. From the information finding its way to my hollow in the Bluegrass State, Palantir perceives that the US Army behaved in an irrational manner. Okay. I heard that Palantir interprets the procurement guidelines and rules one way. The US Army sees procurement procedures in a different way. Palantir may be wearing Zenni optical eye glasses, and the US Army DCGS team the nifty ATN PVS7-3P goggles.

I am looking forward to the legal dust up; that is, if the information becomes available. Based on Palantir’s hassles with IBM i2, the information was sealed just like the June 30, 2016 complaint against the US Army. Without information, it is difficult to know what’s what.

My experience suggests that the DCGS award is important because it involves a couple of hundred million dollars. Also, the project is a multi year thing. That means that the vendor who can get his or her teeth into the prime contract can gnaw for years. The $200 million is just one slice of the cash cow.

Another thing is I surmise, although you, gentle reader, may not agree. Litigation against the US government often makes it difficult for some of those involved to have an incentive to “friend” some folks and get into a constructive social relationship. There is nothing like the lingering stench of a burnt bridge to spoil dynamite chicken at a green bean.

For the individuals who need a functioning multi source intelligence system, you will have to become more creative. The Harrod’s Creek approach might work. With no information germane to a topic, one can rely on gossip, Web articles, or guesses.

Stephen E Arnold, July 19, 2016

The U.S. Government Pushes Improved Public Access to Code Developed for Government Use

July 15, 2016

The article on Matthias Kirschner’s blog titled US Government Commits to Publish Publicly Financed Software Under Free Software Licenses relates the initiative in the draft policy involving governmental support for increased access to tailored software code built for the Federal Government. Kirschner is the President of the Free Software Foundation Europe, and thereby is interested in promoting the United States’ new policy in the European Union. The article explains,

“The Source Code Policy is intended for efficient use of US taxpayers’ money and reuse of existing custom-made software across the public sector. It is said to reduce vendor lock-in of the public sector, and decrease duplicate costs for the same code which in return will increase transparency of public agencies. The custom-build software will also be published to the general public either as public domain, or as Free Software so others can improve and reuse the software.”

Kirschner believes in empowering people by providing this sort of software, and the US government appears to be equally enthusiastic about promoting innovation rather than redundant software purchases. There are also examples of how non-techy people can use open source resources on the White House article about the draft policy. That article lists tools like free housing counselors, sexual assault data, and even college research through College Scorecard. All in all, this seems like a no-brainer.

 

Chelsea Kerwin, July 15, 2016

There is a Louisville, Kentucky Hidden Web/Dark

Web meet up on July 26, 2016.

Information is at this link: http://bit.ly/29tVKpx.

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Does China Want Apple to Become a 1000 Year Old Digital Egg?

July 11, 2016

I know China is a large market. I know China has a baker’s dozen of top flight engineering schools. I know China has outfits able to make things from prototypes to industrial scale production of stuff for dollar stores.

My thought is that China wants Apple style mobile phones made by folks China feels comfy with. My hunch is that Apple itself may not be on the short list of China’s BBFs.

Navigate to “Apple’s Problems in China Continue as It’s Sued over a 1990s War Film.” I assume the write up is spot on and that headline contains a germ of insight; namely, “problem in China continue.” The operative words are “continue” and “problems.”

I learned:

Apple is being sued in China over a 1990s war film.

I wonder if Cupertino’s Mandarin Gourmet has a fortune cookie with this saying inside which might be included with the restaurant’s sizzling rice soup:

The world may be your oyster, but it doesn’t mean you’ll get its pearl.

How will the China Apple interaction conclude? Years ago, I heard that Google wanted China to change? I wonder how that worked out. Perhaps some countries want companies which do not perceive themselves as having more power than the nation state?

Stephen E Arnold, July 11, 2016

Sole Source: Good for the Digital Mapping Soul

July 10, 2016

Short honk: Navigate to “DigitalGlobe Awarded Sole-Source Contract to Provide Advanced Analytic Services to the DIA.” Learn that DigitalGlobe has won a direct contract with the Defense Intelligence Agency. I highlighted:

This sole-source, cost-plus-fixed-fee contract was awarded to DigitalGlobe’s GeoEye Analytics Inc., a wholly owned legal entity of DigitalGlobe, with a ceiling value of $55 million and an estimated completion date of June 2021.

And Alphabet Google? Good question. Competition is tough.

Stephen E Arnold, July 10, 2016

Rare Sighting in Silicon Valley: A Unicorn

July 8, 2016

Unicorns are mythical creatures with a whole slew of folklore surrounding them, but in modern language the horned beast has been used as a metaphor for a rare occurrence.  North Korea once said that Kim Jong Un spotted a unicorn from their despotic controlled media service, but Fortune tells us that a unicorn was spotted in California’s Silicon Valley: “The SEC Wants Unicorns To Stop Bragging About Their Valuations”.

Unicorns in the tech world are Silicon Valley companies valued at more than one billion.  In some folklore, unicorns are vain creatures and love to be admired, the same can be said about Silicon Valley companies and startups as they brag about their honesty with their investors.  Mary Jo White of the SEC said she wanted them to stop blowing the hot air.

“ ‘The concern is whether the prestige associated with reaching a sky-high valuation fast drives companies to try to appear more valuable than they actually are,’ she said.”

Unlike publicly traded companies, the SEC cannot regulate private unicorns, but they still value protecting investors and facilitating capital formation.  Silicon Valley unicorns have secondary markets forming around their pre-IPO status.  The status they retain before they are traded on the public market.  The secondary market uses derivative contracts, which can contribute to misconceptions about their value.  White wants the unicorns to realize they need to protect their investors once they go public with better structures and controls for their daily operations.

Another fact from unicorn folklore is that unicorns are recognized as symbols of truth.  So while the braggart metaphor is accurate, the truthful aspect is not.

 

Whitney Grace,  July 8 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Palantir and the US Army: Procurement Thrills

July 6, 2016

I read “Palantir Takes Fight with Army to Federal Court.” The write up is quite useful because the reporter Jen Judson was able to glean some information from a document related to the Palantir versus US Army matter. When I looked for the document, it seemed to me that the complaint had been sealed. I learned from the article:

Palantir is arguing the way the Army wrote its requirements in a request for proposals to industry would shut out Silicon Valley companies that provide commercially available products. The company contended that the Army’s plan to award just one contract to a lead systems integrator means commercially available solutions would have to be excluded.

The Defense News story included some interesting factoids. Here are three I noted:

  • Palantir perceives the US Army acting in what is described as an “irrational” way.
  • The program for a database, analytics, and visualization tools has consumed billions of dollars and is a development project, not a commercial off the shelf deal.
  • Some Army personnel requested Palantir’s software and found the request denied.

Let’s assume that the Army is trying to build a solution which delivers what Palantir Gotham offers as ready-to-roll system listed on the GSA schedule like photocopying machines.

The questions that rose from my addled goose brain were:

  1. Why is the Army reluctant to use commercial-off-the-shelf software? My narrow experience with government procurement suggests that there is some other factor or factors making the coding of a system from ground zero or cranking out scripts to hook existing systems together more attractive than buying something that pretty much works.
  2. Why is Palantir unable to play procurement ball with the other major defense contracting companies? Is there a trust issue in play? Palantir was caught in a sticky wicket with i2 Group over the Analyst’s Notebook file format. As a former adviser to i2 before it became part of IBM, I know that the file format was a bit of information Mike Hunter and his colleagues treated as a close hold.
  3. What issues do the major vendors involved in the Army’s program have with Palantir’s business methods? Most government centric vendors generally get along and take a live-and-let-live approach to big projects. If vendors are not willing to play in the same sandbox, some bad vibes exist for some reason.

Unfortunately I don’t have answers to these questions. My view is that tackling the US Army and procurement methods is likely to cause some consternation for folks involved in the statement of work, the procurement, and the legal machinations.

Plus, the procurement guidelines and the actual procurement processes are often complex and somewhat flexible. As a result, when a commercial company lets the legal eagles fly, the US government has some wiggle room.

Finally, this Palantir versus the Army strikes me as a reprise of Google’s grousing about its not winning the search project for the original version of USA.gov. Big Silicon Valley companies make assumptions. For example, Google tossed around the term rational and the word logical as I recall. The problem is that trust, fear, and revenue may not fit into a Venn diagram or a numerical recipe.

Will Silicon Valley triumph over the so called Beltway Bandits? Will Silicon Valley rationality emerge victorious in the joust with the Army? Stay tuned for the outcome unless the resolution is sealed just like the ANB file format once was.

Stephen E Arnold, July 6, 2016

Government IT Procurement Wobble

July 5, 2016

I read “IT Showdown: Tech Giants Face Off against 18F.” What’s an 18F? If you do work for the US government, you associate 18 F with the address of the General Services Administration. The name now evokes some annoyance among established US government contractors. The term 18F refers to a group set up to reduce the time, cost, and hassle of getting IT “done”.

In the good old days, there were people in the US government who did things. Over the years, US government professionals rely on contractors to do certain types of work. In the information technology world, the things range from talking about how one might do something to actually setting up a system to deliver certain outputs.

Along the way, commercial enterprises provided hardware, software, and services. The hardware and software were, for many years, proprietary or custom crafted to meet the needs of a particular government entity. These statements of work made life difficult for a vendor who used what were often perceived as expensive solutions. License agreements made it tricky for a government entity to get another commercial outfit to modify or work around limitations of certain commercial systems.

According to the write up, some of the established vendors are grousing. I learned:

At a House subcommittee hearing on June 10, lobbyists from the IT Alliance for Public Sector (ITAPS) and the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA) alleged that 18F is hindering profits by acting as both a procurement policymaker and as a tech competitor inside the General Services Administration (GSA). The two groups assert a conflict of interest, and in testimony, have submitted a list of grievances and recommendations intended to curtail 18F’s authority. The hearing was conducted jointly by the House Subcommittees of Government Operations and Information Technology to assess the effectiveness of 18F and the U.S. Digital Service (USDS) — a sister tech consultancy within the White House.

The industry group perceives the 18F outfit as a bit of a threat. Blanket purchase agreements, open source solutions, and giving certain contracts for small coding jobs to non traditional outfits are not what the established information technology vendors want to happen.

I find the dust up amusing. The revenues of established information technology vendors are not likely to suffer sharp declines overnight. The 18F initiative is an example of the US government trying to find a solution to escalating costs for information technology and the gap between the commercial solutions available and actual solutions deployed in a government entity.

Will 18F reduce the gap? One thing is certain. Some vendors associate the term “18F” with some different connotations. Imagine a government professional using a mobile phone app to perform a task for personal work and then using a mainframe act to perform a similar task in a government agency. Exciting.

Stephen E Arnold, July 5, 2016

The EU Google Dust Up: The Ad Business

July 3, 2016

I read “EU turns to Google’s Ad Business in Antitrust Probe.” Poor Alphabet Google. The company wants to focus, change transportation, and reduce costs by embracing smart software. The nitpickers in the EU continue to find fault with one of Sillycon Valley’s most cherished institutions. The problem this time appears to be advertising.

The write up reports (after one participates in a somewhat silly survey before displaying the write up):

Google is set to be hit with a third set of antitrust charges by the European Union – this time against its advertising business.

What’s the regulated beef? I learned:

investigators are taking steps to formalize their accusations by asking companies to remove confidential material from evidence that supports claims Google abuses its dominance in online advertising. If found guilty of breaking EU competition law, Google could face a maximum fine of 10% of its annual revenue per infringement.

Alphabet Google, despite the company’s best efforts over the last decade or so, generates about 90 percent of its $70 billion in revenue from advertising. A fine would certainly be an interesting number when converted to the super currency, the euro.

My thought is that the Alphabet Google outfit is misunderstood. Advertising depends on people who want to use a free online search system. The advertisers pay the Alphabet Google thing to put messages in front of users. Europe tried and failed to create a Google killer. The Qwant service is chugging along but with less and less spring in its step. The Exalead system, believe it or not, is online, but does not seem to be too popular here in rural Kentucky.

I almost feel sorry for the EU. Alphabet Google should be okay, but if the company finds itself having to pay out billions to keep regulators happy, there will be less fun in the Googleplex.

Stephen E Arnold, July 3, 2016

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