Wall Street Journal Forecasts Microsoft Purchase of Equivio

October 23, 2014

The article titled Microsoft to Buy Israel Text-Analysis Vendor Equivio: Report on ZDNet covers the potential purchase reported recently by the Wall Street Journal. According to the article, Equivio’s main draw for Microsoft is the product Zoom, a legal tool for document organization. The article states,

Equivio has been working with Microsoft technologies, including Windows XP, SQL Server and SharePoint Server, since 2006, if not earlier. The company develops text-analytics products for legal and compliance e-discovery tasks. Its main product is Zoom “a court-approved machine learning platform for the legal area”. Zoom organizes collections of documents in meaningful ways, while quantifying and visualizing the decision space. So you can zoom out for the big picture. Or zoom in to find just what you need.”

The price of the purchase is reported at $200 million dollars. This may sound steep, but makes sense when some of the users of Zoom include The U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission. Microsoft has been in the habit of buying up text-processing technology, and has overseas cash to spend on companies outside of the U.S. (only a month ago Microsoft spent 2.5 billion on Mojang, the Stockholm-based Minecraft creator.) Microsoft had no comment on the deal, but the Wall Street Journal has been right before.

Chelsea Kerwin, October 23, 2014

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

Cautious Words on Microsoft Delve

October 22, 2014

Much buzz has been collecting around Microsoft’s Delve (formerly known as Oslo), the new search-and-discovery component of Office 365. ComputerWorldUK, however, raises some questions in, “Delve, Office Graph Must Transcend Office 365 to be Revolutionary.” The application is designed to tap into the company’s Office Graph machine-learning engine, but apparently has a way to go before fulfilling its creators’ goals. Reporter Juan Carlos Perez writes:

“If Microsoft realizes its Office Graph vision — and it may take years to materialize — then the way information workers interact with business software today and the way they find digital information will seem ancient and grossly inefficient. And Microsoft might fly past competitors in the enterprise with a technology that creates a sort of cockpit that automates and simplifies for employees the use of their Microsoft and non-Microsoft software.”

Delve began gradually rolling out to Office users in September, with the process to be completed sometime next year. The tool can be used as a conventional search engine, but it is designed to do much more. The article supplies this example:

“Delve knows that ‘Joe’ has a meeting in an hour, what its topic is and who will be in attendance. So, Delve proactively fetches relevant documents, files and information about the topic and the participants, and displays them on its dashboard, so Joe can be prepared for the meeting. Joe didn’t have to spend 30 minutes compiling all this data manually, assuming that he even would have had the time to do it, and if he did, that he would have been able to find the information, a big challenge for employees of all stripes everywhere.”

Sounds great! However, Perez notes that some open questions stand between here and the realization of Delve’s potential. Perhaps most obviously, being able to comb only Office applications for data is limiting; most of us don’t limit ourselves to Microsoft products (as much as the company might like us to.) There are considerable technical challenges there. Then there’s the privacy issue—will users find it’s “stealthy technology” creepy, and possibly be worried about nosy supervisors? Apparently, some more end-user controls are planned, but they may not address that concern. See the article for more thorough discussion of these issues. Will Delve overcome these obstacles?

Cynthia Murrell, October 22, 2014

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

Microsoft Azure May be Permanently Broken

October 9, 2014

Microsoft’s cloud service, Azure, has had a rough month, and there are recent reports that it may be impossible for it to ever recover, at least in reputation. Read more of the details in the Tech Guru Daily article, “Is Microsoft’s Azure Permanently Broken?

The article begins:

“There appear to be some serious issues with Microsoft’s Azure cloud services and some experts suggest the problems might be difficult if not impossible to fix. Last month we reported that Azure was having problems. According to the Microsoft Azure status page there were 38 separate incidents between July 15 and August 15, and apparently things haven’t improved at all. In fact the problems have gotten worse.”

And because this is a live running service, with lots of dependent customers now disappointed repeatedly over a long period of time, it is highly unlikely that Microsoft Azure will be able to recover. There are many other cloud services that preceded Azure that continue to function well, and most customers have likely moved on to one of these by now. If you are a current Microsoft Azure customer, and have yet to experience major issues, you may want to consider other options before it does interrupt your regular business.

Emily Rae Aldridge, October 09, 2014

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

Microsoft Prediction Technology: What about Windows Phone Sales?

October 7, 2014

I am amused when a company can roll out a product that people do not like. A good example is the Windows 8 version of the popular operating system. I think of Vista and Windows ME. I wonder how a company cannot “predict” how its own customers will react to a series of very expensive operating system changes.

The answer is that Microsoft’s ability to predict is not particularly good in my opinion. I won’t mention Windows Phone. I would point out that Apple’s iPhone 6 moved millions of units over a weekend. Did Microsoft predict that its phone would perform at a comparable level? Probably.

I read “A New Kind of Data-Driven Predictive Methodology.” The article is one of a flurry of fancy math stories that are choking my Overflight intelligence system.

The article explains that Microsoft predicted the Scottish independence vote and:

Microsoft…correctly predicted the winners of all 15 World Cup knockout games earlier this year and got the Obama vs. Romney outcome right in 50 of 51 jurisdictions (the states plus the District of Columbia) in the 2012 U.S. presidential election.

Pretty impressive until I think about Microsoft’s dismal track record with its own products’ acceptance by its own customers.

If you want to get more insight into a system that seems to perform well for non Microsoft questions, dig in. Microsoft is into social, reinventing survey research, and analysis of data that “must be accurate.”

Yep, accurate data help. How did those predictions about the Fast Search & Transfer acquisition work out? I will try to “Delve” into that question.

Stephen E Arnold, October 7, 2014

BA Insight New Hire Likes His Job

September 17, 2014

Navigate to “My BA Insight Enterprise Search Adventure Begins.” The enthusiasm, confidence, and Super Bowl winning attitude rips off my screen. With new executive and venture funding, BA Insight seems to be a go to solution. But is the company too closely allied with Microsoft and the aging SharePoint product? Will the forthcoming Delve (a variation on the vision for Fast Search & Transfer revealed during a talk at CERN in 2007) put pressure on the SharePoint centric outfits? I just don’t know.

Here’s the passage I find interesting. I did not have one of the goslings “fix up” the capitalization errors or add links.

As I’ve been ramping up I’ve been learning a lot about their products and solutions.  BA Insight use to be known as the connector company.  The BA Insight Longitude Connectors can connect Microsoft SharePoint to more than 30 enterprise systems for information access and cross-platform search.  They have so many connectors that allow SharePoint 2013, 2010, FAST and previous versions of SharePoint connect to a huge variety of backend systems.  Here are a few examples:  Documentum, eRooms, Websphere, Hummingbird, LiveLink, SAP, Siebel, Notes, Autonomy, FileNet, Connections, Opentext, SalesForce, Netdocs, SQL,  Docushare, and a bunch of different legal systems… I heard they recently setup a connector for Jive and are open to building a connector for companies that need one to other systems not listed.  Even with all of that, I find they don’t want to be known as simply a connector company since they really have a platform for enterprise search.  The autoclassify stuff is brilliant.  It helps set properties on your content based on your managed metadata and with a set of rules for both content already in SharePoint and for the content that will stay in these other systems.  You really need to have good metadata so you can drill down and filter your search results quickly and easily and that’s where their rich search UI comes in providing search parts that give you the ability to drill in without needing to know boolean search.   At that point it’s the smart previews that save you time.  On top of the Office Web Apps in SharePoint 2013, you get previews for PDF, ZIP, and a huge variety of other formats including the old office formats that you’d otherwise miss including to all of those systems I mentioned.  There’s even more, but I think this is a good start for understanding a few of the top products.  As an example they’ve been doing some really innovative work on hybrid search and real federation where the results are in one stream.

My question is, “Why would anyone use SharePoint when BA Insight can fill the bill as “enterprise search experts”? I think Fast Search had a good sense of what it had to do to address the limitations of its technology. The question is, “Will Microsoft want partners to siphon off revenue from the mother ship?”

Stephen E Arnold, September 17, 2014

Microsoft Azure Search is the Search of the Future

September 17, 2014

For a preview of Azure Search, visit Microsoft Azure. The article promises that Azure search is a breakthrough in “search-as-a-service for web and mobile app development.” For fast search, the future is Azure Search, the cloud platform that allows for the building, deployment and management of applications. Developers will be pleased at the ability to incorporate search without the infrastructure to worry about. The Azure client libraries are open source and available through GitHub. The article includes this information,

“Azure Search boosts development speed thanks to support for familiar tools and a consistent global cloud platform. Quickly provision search and start populating the index to get up and running quickly. Like other Azure services, Search uses familiar REST API calls. The worldwide network of Azure datacenters means reduced search latency no matter where your application is located.”

Pricing details are also available here. The pricing details include this information,

“Azure Search is sold in combinable “search units” that have a defined queries-per-second (QPS) benchmark and document count (index storage) benchmark associated with each unit.”

By combining units, users can achieve higher QPS and/or higher document count. Currently Microsoft is offering a month-long free trial, which should be enough time for anyone to ensure that it is worth the investment.

Chelsea Kerwin, September 17, 2014

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

Microsoft Azure Search Documentation

September 2, 2014

Microsoft has posted information about the Azure Search service. You can find the information at Azure Search Preview. The features remind me of Amazon’s cloud search approach.

The idea is that search is available. The “How It Works” section summarizes the procedures the customer follows. The approach is intended for engineers familiar with Microsoft conventions or a consultant capable of performing the required steps.

Of particular interest to potential licensees  will be the description of the pricing options. The Preview Pricing Details uses an Amazon like approach as well; for example, combinable search units. For higher demand implementations, Microsoft provides a custom price quote. The prices in the table below represent a 50 percent preview discount:


Microsoft offers different “editions” of Azure Search. Microsoft says:

Free is a free version of Azure Search designed to provide developers a sandbox to test features and implementations of Search. It is not designed for production workloads. Standard is the go-to option for building applications that benefit from a self-managed search-as-a-service solution. Standard delivers storage and predictable throughput that scales with application needs. For very high-demand applications, please contact azuresearch_contact@microsoft.com.

Support and service level agreements are available. A pricing calculator is available. Note that the estimates are not for search alone. Additional pricing information points to a page with four categories of fees and more than two dozen separate services. The link to Azure Search Pricing is self-referential, which is interesting to me.

I was not able to locate an online demo of the service. I was invited to participate in a free trial.

If you are interested in the limits for the free trial, Microsoft provides some information in its “Maximum Limits for Shared (Free) Search Service.”

Based on the documentation, correctly formed content uploaded permits full text search, facets, and hit highlighting. Specific functionalities are outlined on this reference page.

Net net: The search system is developer centric.

Stephen E Arnold, September 2, 2014

Governance Information for Office 365

August 18, 2014

Short honk: I am not sure what governance means. But search and content processing vendors bandy about words better than Serena Williams hits tennis balls. If you are governance hungry and use Office 365, Concept Searching has an “online information source” for you. More information is at http://bit.ly/1teO5fA. My hunch is that you will learn to license some smart software to index documents. What happens when there is no Internet connection? Oh, no big deal.

Stephen E Arnold, August 18, 2014

Microsoft Puts Machine Learning in the Cloud

July 25, 2014

Machine learning is ascending to the cloud. The Register asks, “Do Data Centers Dream of Electric Sheep? Microsoft Announces Machine Learning Cloud.” As competition in the world of SaaS and remote hosting continues to escalate, this move may set Microsoft ahead of Amazon and Google (for now). Our question—will this progress rub off on Bing? One can hope.

Writer Jack Clark tells us:

“The company’s new ‘Azure ML’ service was announced on Monday and means developers can access machine learning systems hosted in the Azure cloud and even link their applications directly to them. The tech gives developers a directory of machine learning and associated technologies, including deep learning systems, that they can apply to their applications…

“Azure ML also has ‘a number of tools to help clean data,’ explained Microsoft exec Joseph Sirosh in a chat with El Reg, and has compatibility with popular mathematical software R. The service also gives users a way to drag-and-drop various machine learning technologies together so that they can build an application in a visually striking and understandable way.”

It is interesting to note that Sirosh spent nearly ten years working with (among other things) Amazon’s internal machine learning systems during his stint at that company. Though machine learning itself is nothing new, Microsoft hopes Azure ML will make it more accessible, and tempting, to developers. Likening this advance to the birth of the cloud itself, Sirosh enthuses, “Machine learning is an incredibly underutilized capability—every app around us could be becoming intelligent. I would love to have the excitement around machine learning be unleashed.”

Cynthia Murrell, July 25, 2014

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

Google and Microsoft Shuffle the Deck

July 18, 2014

Each company is using different card tricks.

I see a common theme in the termination of employees at Microsoft and the management redeal at Google.

I read “Beyond 12,500 Former Nokia Employees, Who Else Is Microsoft Laying Off?” I am okay with a Microsoft watcher point out that not just Nokia staff getting the axe. The comment that caught my attention reveals how serious a problem Microsoft faces. Here’s the passage I noted:

Under the new structure, a number of Windows engineers, primarily dedicated testers, will no longer be needed….Instead, program managers and development engineers will be taking on new responsibilities, such as testing hypotheses. The goal is to make the OS team work more like lean startups than a more regimented and plodding one adhering two- to three-year planning, development, testing cycles.

As I understand this, a company almost four decades into its life cycle wants to be “like lean start ups”. I am not sure if my experience is similar to that of other professionals, but working with fewer people does not equal a start up. In a start up, life is pretty crazy. Need a purchase order? Well, someone has to work up that system. Need to get reimbursed for that trade show party? No problem we’ll get a check cut. Over time, humans get tired of crazy and set up routines, systems, and procedures. The thrill of a start up is going to be difficult to emulate at Microsoft.

That’s the core problem. Microsoft has missed or just plain failed with Internet search, unified experiences across devices, online advertising, enterprise search, and improving is core applications. Adding features that a small percentage of users try is not innovation. Microsoft is no longer a start up and firing people will not make it one. Microsoft is an aircraft carrier that takes a long time to turn, to stop, and redirect. Microsoft has to demonstrate to its stakeholders that it is taking purposeful action. Firing thousands of people makes headlines. It does not create new products, services, or meaningful innovations. IBM has decided that throwing billions of dollars at project that “could” deliver big revenue is almost as wild and wooly.

Now to Google. The company reported its quarterly earnings. Cheerleaders for the company point to growth in ad revenue. The New York Times states:

Google’s revenue for the quarter was $15.96 billion, an increase of 22 percent over the year-ago quarter.

Tucked into the article were several comments I marked as indicators of the friction Google faces:

ITEM: “The price that advertisers pay each time someone clicks on an ad — or “cost per click,” in Google talk — dropped 6 percent from the year-ago quarter, largely because of the shift to increased mobile advertising.”

ITEM: “Mobile, however, is something that Facebook seems to have cracked. The social media giant accounted for almost 16 percent of mobile advertising dollars spent around the world last year, eMarketer estimates, up from 9 percent in 2012. Google dropped to a 41.5 percent share of the mobile ad market last year, down from 49.8 percent in 2012.”

ITEM: ““There’s a little bit of concern in the markets that there’s some drunken spending going on,” said Mark Mahaney, an Internet analyst with RBC Capital Markets.”

The New York Times’ article omitted one point I found interesting:

Excluding its cost of revenue, Google’s core expenses in the second quarter jumped 26 percent from last year. Source: http://bit.ly/Uf8JPM.

The Google “core expenses” are creeping up. Amazon has this problem as well. Is there a reason to worry about the online ad giant? Not for me. But the “drunken spending” comments, while clever, have the ring of truth. Then the swift departure of Glass director Babak Parviz (Amir Parviz, Amirparviz, or Parvis) suggests disenchantment somewhere between the self assembly wizard and Goggle management. After a decade of effort, Google has yet to demonstrate that it can create a no advertising revenue stream of significant magnitude for a $60 billion a year company.

Microsoft’s and Google’s recent actions make clear that both companies are trying to adapt to realities of today’s market. Both companies are under increasing pressure to “just make it work.” Three card Monte

Stephen E Arnold, July 18, 2014

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