May 7, 2013
Some of the UK newspapers pop up boxes wanting me to subscribe. Nice try, but I don’t follow too much of the England, Ireland, Scotland action. As fascinating as the Cotswolds may be, most of the business news from England is a bit depressing and irrelevant to life here in Harrod’s Creek. My subscribing to the major UK dailies online is simply not yet compelling. But once in a while an information truffle comes to my attention.
Economy Watch presented this somewhat troubling picture of England’s economy. For a discussion of the data, please, navigate to http://www.economywatch.com/world_economy/england/.
I did notice in one of my Overflights this story, however: “Barclays Capital Accused in Autonomy Lawsuit.” (If the link goes bad, you will have to hunt around for the story or look at a hard copy of the paper in a library.)
The main idea is that HP spent $11 billion for Autonomy. A short time later, HP wrote off about $9 billion, making the deal for Autonomy apparently worth $2 billion. Here’s was the Telegraph said about a shareholder lawsuit which named the top brass of HP among others as allegedly responsible for the misstep:
“HP’s financial advisor, Barclays, was conflicted in advising the board while simultaneously underwriting the financing of the deal,” the lawsuit states. “Compounding the problem, after the acquisition closed, HP’s fiduciaries misrepresented the facts to conceal their own failings,” it [the shareholder lawsuit] added.
What I find interesting is that the difference between what HP paid and at what the write down pegs the “value” is still a hefty number for a search and content processing company. Autonomy was the pre-eminent search vendor, and it did a good job of surviving and growing as other vendors failed. Consider that Autonomy survived and reach nearly $1 billion in revenues as Convera, Entopia, Delphes, Siderean and others disappeared.
My view is that Autonomy’s success continues to give venture firms and entrepreneurs hope that an enterprise search, business intelligence, or content analytics firm can deliver hundreds of millions in revenue. Since the roll up wave of the high profile search vendors has come and gone, the companies which want to fill the void look at the Autonomy deal as a benchmark.
What I find interesting is that like the Microsoft purchase of Fast Search & Transfer, the big European deals have been dogged by by questions about the financial underpinnings of the company. The smaller deals—Dassault”s purchase of Exalead, IBM’s deal for Vivisimo, Lexmark’s one-two deals for Brainware and ISYS Search Software, and Oracle’s acquisition of Endeca—have been largely without excitement. The search “technology” has morphed into functions which enhance the owners’ enterprise systems. I would note that most of these acquired search technologies were aging at the time of the buyouts in my opinion. ISYS, I believe, dates from the late 1980s.
Are some companies unable to manage, value, and leverage their search acquisitions? I was reminded yesterday that 20 somethings and slick MBAs have figured out how to make money from search. I listened, of courser. But in the back of my mind, it seems that most of the still standing search vendors are in the business of raising money. Making sales and growing a business, for some, is a secondary activity.
Which enterprise search vendors are demonstrating organic growth and generating sufficient cash to support and enhance their products? When I think about the mad rush to convert search technology into something to tackle big data or mine nuggets in real time data, I wonder if a “willing suspension of disbelief” is the defining characteristic of those who pump millions upon millions into search and content processing.
Technology is enhanced by marketing. Smart money seems to believe the public relations. The actual financial performance drifts to a secondary role.
Who’s affected? According to the shareholders, executives and bankers. Here’s the phrase in the estimable Telegraph’s lingo: “disastrous purchase of Autonomy.”
Disastrous is a colorful notion when applied to enterprise search and its related disciplines, isn’t it?
Stephen E Arnold, May 7, 2013
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May 5, 2013
YouTube is a hotbed for illegal video uploads and it has been brought to court multiple times to put an end to these acts, but once more according to CNET,“YouTube Defeats Viacom Copyright Lawsuit…Again.” This case marks the second time in three years that YouTube has beaten Viacom. Viacom has accused the video-sharing Web site to ignoring illegal video uploads. US District Judge Louis Stanton that YouTube is protected under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s safe harbor provisions.
Viacom issued a $1 billion lawsuit in 2007, stating that YouTube was profiting off illegal TV and movie clips. Stanton sided with YouTube in 2010, but the case was appealed. In response, YouTube showed 63,060 that violated copyright and challenged Viacom to prove adequate notice of infringement was given. Viacom was using a pre-digital copyright law that no longer has any precedence.
“ ‘The burden of showing that YouTube knew or was aware of the specific infringements of the works in suit cannot be shifted to YouTube to disprove,’ [Stanton] wrote. ‘Congress has determined that the burden of identifying what must be taken down is to be on the copyright owner, a determination which has proven practicable in practice.’ Google welcomed the ruling, calling it a victory for all Internet users.”
To rub in the burn, Chad Hurley, YouTube founder, taunted Viacom via Twitter. Gotta love the passive aggressive capabilities of the Internet, but it also begs the question who is in the right, court ruling or no?
Whitney Grace, May 05, 2013
May 1, 2013
In the article Youtube Wins Yet Another Complete Victory over Viacom; Court Mocks Viacom’s Ridiculous Legal Theories on Techdirt, the sweeping victory of Google and YouTube in the ruling delivered on April 18 is discussed. Viacom’s entire legal strategy was dismissed out of hand, their attempts to place burden of proof on YouTube and dispel safe harbor laws were rejected. The article summarizes the courts ruling as follows,
“Basically, Viacom has wasted an incredible amount of money on a massive lawsuit based on a very, very shaky premise that the court didn’t buy the first time around… This was the crux of Viacom’s argument. That because they could show a lot of infringement, and here and there point to some evidence that some people at YouTube might have known of general infringement, then the burden should be on YouTube. But the court clearly calls them on this”
Calling Viacom’s argument to be both “extravagant” and “Ingenious” in turn, the court has granted summary judgment to Googe/ Youtube. We have to note, Google is on a roll with Youtube.
Chelsea Kerwin, May 01, 2013
April 20, 2013
I hope Google’s lawyers appreciate their job security. Another push-back about Google search results has sprung up in the U.K., this time from mapping company Streetmap. The Verge reports, “Google Sued for Burying ‘Streetmap’ Search Results.” The complaint follows a familiar refrain: The company alleges that Google purposely buried their site in its results pages. If true, the charge has troubling implications for “objective search results.”
Writer Russell Brandom reminds us:
“The suit comes on the heels of an antitrust probe conducted by the European Union into whether Google is using its Search service to actively promote its other products, spurred by a similar suit from British shopping-comparison site Foundem. EU commissioners have said that ultimate goal of the probe will be to secure ‘legally binding commitments’ that their search results are unbiased. A similar probe in the U.S. found no evidence the company’s actions were harmful to consumers.”
Yes, well, European officials tend to take a more strict line on such issues than their counterparts in the U.S. Several times now, Google has found itself in hot water across the pond. Will the company decide that its lavish success is worth continuing to prod these legal boundaries?
Cynthia Murrell, April 20, 2013
April 19, 2013
Like many legal terms burdened with inconvenient meanings, the word “predatory” is being redefined. According to Microsoft, Oracle, and other FairSearch members, giving away free software is a predatory move, one that justifies hauling a competitor to court. Ars Technica posts: “Opinion: Antitrust Complaint Against Android is an Attack on Open Source.”
“That stance would have sweeping implications for the software industry because so many software companies distribute software for free. Red Hat gives away its version of Linux (in source code form, at least) as a way to generate interest in its subscriptions and support services. Other popular software packages, such as the Eclipse development environment and the OpenOffice productivity suite, have been maintained at times by commercial sponsors. Indeed, Oracle itself is a major distributor of free software.”
Indeed. Lee goes on to point out that Microsoft, with its history of lukewarm support for open-source projects, has the most to gain from a ruling against software largess. However, the rest of the industry would suffer; releasing free software is a standard, and crucial, practice that promotes brand recognition and attracts paying customers.
The article concludes:
“Competition laws are supposed to benefit consumers, not a company’s competitors. It’s easy to see how Microsoft and Nokia might have been harmed by Google’s decision to price its mobile operating system at zero. But there’s no reason to think the strategy is harmful to consumers.”
I hope the courts will keep that distinction in mind as they consider this complaint.
Cynthia Murrell, April 19, 2013
March 20, 2013
I saw a reference to a court filing by the law firm called San Diego IP Law Group LLP. You can find the document at the San Diego court as Case 3:13-cv-oo309-DMS-JMA. I took a quick look and it appeared that the a company in the search and content processing business is a party to the legal matter. The “defendant”, if I read the document correctly, is WCC Services US, Inc., a Delaware corporation owned by WCC Group BV in the Netherlands.
Here’s what WCC says about its company:
WCC is a high-end software company that automates the matching process by providing more accurate and intelligent results. Non-core activities such as client implementations are performed by qualified partners like Accenture or EDS. To maintain its stated company objectives, WCC recruits and retains a motivated, flexible and highly educated staff. The knowledge and passion of our people drives industry-leading innovation and delights customers with the quality of our products and support. WCC is committed to a transparent Corporate Governance structure, even as a privately-held company. The organization’s openness, internally and externally, gives stakeholders up-to-date information about WCC and its future course. Conservative accounting policies assure continuity of the company and clearly signal WCC’s reliability as a business partner.
The court document carries the phrase “Complain for patent infringement” with a demand for a jury trial. The court document references a number of patents; for example, US 7298873 and some others.
I just wanted to document the existence of this court document. Like the Palantir i2 Group dust up, these disputes about content processing are interesting to me. Once resolved, the information about the matter can disappear. Google, of course, does not like urls which fail to resolve. I don’t loud sirens. Like Google, there’s not much one can do about certain content going dark. Stuff happens whether Google or I like it.
Keep in mind that I don’t have a dog in this fight. I have been monitoring WCC Group’s information retrieval business, but the company has kept a low profile. I did try to contact the company a couple of years ago, but I was unable to get much traction.
WCC’s search system is called Elise. There are some public descriptions of the search related business at these links:
- Job matching
- An Elise solution for “PES” which I don’t recognize as a useful acronym for public employment services
- A case study for a German PES
Stephen E Arnold, March 20, 2013
March 13, 2013
Keep in mind that I don’t have a dog in the fight or a horse in the race. I am struck by the flurry of interest in the Hewlett Packard dust up.
The most recent excitement concerns the Serious Fraud Office’s looking into the sale by Autonomy to Hewlett Packard. HP precipitated the situation because it bought Autonomy. The Board of Directors kicked tires and wrote a check with some help from their bankers for $8 to $11 billion. The number keeps changing.
The most recent twist is that the Guardian newspaper in London reported on March 12, 2013, that the UK’s Serious Fraud Office may have a conflict of interest. Ah, only in merrie old Englande. You will want to read the story “Conflict of Interest May Prevent SFO Investigating Autonomy.”
The UK’s corruption agency, dubbed the “Seriously Flawed Office” after being forced to abandon its high-profile case against financier Robert Tchenguiz, announced on Tuesday morning that it may have a conflict of interest preventing it from pursuing Autonomy directors for alleged accounting irregularities. The SFO has a £4m contract, with annual payments of £664,098, to use Autonomy’s software.
But if the software doesn’t work what then? Perhaps an IT person from SFO could be called to provide some information. The HP money was for the UK’s leading software company. How eager will those in the UK be to discuss the intricacies of enterprise software in a forum which is not exactly information technology savvy.
I assume that a government entity in the UK not using Autonomy’s software will pick up the investigation. Given the broad market penetration of Autonomy, candidates for the investigation may be asked to volunteer their services. Norway has an experienced team in place with some experience in search related probes as well.
Last time I was in Slough, I thought I saw a city office which had an investigative team.
Stephen E Arnold, March 13, 2013
March 11, 2013
Would you like to see another example about how blog posts can nip you in the rear? Over at Slashdot, a user posted “Publisher Sues University Librarian Over His Personal Blog Posts.” The post is simply about librarian Dale Askey expressing his opinion:
“’The Chronicle of Higher Education has the news that Herbert Richardson, founder of Edwin Mellen Press is suing McMaster University and University Librarian Dale Askey for $3 Million over Mr. Askey’s posts on a personal blog. In 2010 Mr. Askey wrote a blog post about Edwin Mellen Press on his personal Web site, Bibliobrary. Mr. Askey referred to the publisher as ‘dubious’ and said its books were often works of ‘second-class scholarship.’ For a few months afterward, several people chimed in the blog’s comments section, some agreeing with Mr. Askey, others arguing in support of the publisher. In a February 11 statement, the McMaster University Faculty Association (MUFA) stated that The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) ‘and the MUFA Executive agree that this case represents a serious threat to the freedom of academic librarians (pdf) to voice their professional judgment and to academic freedom more generally.’”
It does not appear that Askey did anything wrong other than post a critical review. If you read the entire article, the Richardson also claims that Askey made defamatory comments about his person. When is a person not allowed to voice an opinion. If movie executives and authors were afraid of every bad review we would not have any new movies or books. The same applies here. Whatever happened to freedom of speech?
Whitney Grace, March 11, 2013
February 19, 2013
It looks like Google must now become Mother Google. Overturning a previous finding by the high court, a U.K. court of appeals holds Google Blogger responsible for rapidly removing defamatory blog posts by third parties, we learn in the Guardian’s story, “Google Must Act Quickly on Libellous Blogger Posts, Says Appeal Court.”
The case began, perhaps not surprisingly, with a politician (Payam Tamiz)who didn’t like some things someone wrote about him. While some of those nasty assertions were, indeed, untrue, it should be remembered that it was not anyone at Google itself who wrote them. The first judge made a ruling consistent with my don’t-shoot-the-messenger viewpoint; writer Lisa O’Carroll reveals:
“Eady ruled that no libel action could be heard because Google could not be deemed to be a publisher in its own right.
“Eady said Google’s responsibility for online slurs was no more than that of an ‘unfortunate owner’ of a wall ‘festooned with defamatory graffiti’.”
Sir Eady also indicated that the five weeks it took Google to remove the offending post after Tamiz complained was not unreasonable. This latest appeal ruling disagrees with that assessment, and insists the company must respond more quickly to such complaints. However, neither Tamiz nor Google walked away completely happy. We learn:
“However in making his ruling the master of the rolls, Lord Justice Richards, took the decision to side with the high court and refuse the overall appeal of the original libel action in the high court because of lack of evidence about how many people had read the offending blog comments.”
Well, that’s the Internet for you. A Google representative said the company would “continue to operate within the law,” removing content that is illegal or violates the terms of service. But will they be able to do so fast enough, especially as their blog platform continues to grow? More trouble could be on the horizon.
Cynthia Murrell, February 19, 2013
February 1, 2013
I don’t want to rain on the innovation parade. However, another search lawsuit is upon us. “Microsoft Sued over Search-Related Patents” reports that the alleged infringement relates to advertising. In My March 2013 Cebit Promise talk I comment about the loss of innovation in search. This new legal dust up makes it clear that the focus in search is on the dance among the search system, the user, and the advertiser. In short, innovation is not precision and recall in the manner of dusty equations. Perhaps innovation is the dutiful servant of revenue and legal eagles?
Stephen E Arnold, February 1, 2013
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