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Microsoft and Business Intelligence That Sells

November 19, 2015

I read “Microsoft’s Graph Wants to Turn User Data into Business Intelligence It Can Sell.” The write up is interesting because Microsoft has been laboring in the information access vineyards for decades. The products produced are somewhat different from the products of other data vintners in my opinion. The other point is that Microsoft, if the article is accurate, wants to sell information, not software and cloud services, subscriptions to Office, and mobile phones. Wait. Maybe not mobile phones. What will Microsoft be selling?

I learned:

What it [Microsoft] would like to do is to take your user  information and use it in much the same way that Google reads your email to understand when your flight is going to leave, or Microsoft’s Cortana tracks packages. What Google doesn’t have access to, though, is all that information you’ve tucked away into Office: not just email, but documents, OneNote notes, and the like. As the original Office Graph names suggests, Microsoft sees the Graph first as a business tool. Entire companies have already been built around the sort of business intelligence that Microsoft hopes to provide, whether it be customer-relationship management, logistics, or sales analysis tools. Microsoft hopes to take its Office contextual data and provide it as a service to third parties. Eventually it could take data from a company like Salesforce, integrate it with the Office data, and provide a richer mix of data back to its customers. Currently, its partners include, SkyHigh Networks, Smartsheet, and OfficeAtWork.

Microsoft has some interesting ideas. Does the future of Microsoft include search and SharePoint. Sketching plans for the future are interesting and often enjoyable. Delivering is a different exercise. The monitoring functions of Windows 10 hint at some of the questions Microsoft will have to address. Reality and the future are often difficult to reconcile with Alphabet-Google’s and other firms’ efforts.

Stephen E Arnold, November 19, 2015

Microsoft: We Can Do Smart Software Just Like Google

November 13, 2015

I read “Microsoft Open-Sources DMTK, a Distributed Machine Learning Library.” I was not surprised. The folks in Redmond have had some serious Google envy for more than 15 years. After Google made some of its smart software available as open source, I assumed that Microsoft would want to do the me-too thing as well.

According to the write up:

Microsoft today announced the release of a new open-source machine learning toolkit that goes by the name DMTK. The toolkit contains a framework for training models on multiple servers, a topic modeling algorithm, and a word-embedding algorithm for natural language processing. It’s all out on GitHub under an MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) license. Using these tools, developers can handle machine learning at scale with fewer servers.

If I were teaching at a university, I would have to decide whether to embrace the Google or the company that provides SharePoint. I would be torn. Do I side with the Hatfields or the McCoys?

The write up points out that Facebook released a few of its smart software toys as part of its Torch program.

The idea is that developers can use these nifty new tools to create smart applications. I look forward to more systems like LinkedIn’s. These can determine how much spam to send me about people who are looking for work or who want to thought leaders. Useful stuff. Good for students to use as they make their way to the booming world of smart dust and slow going self driving autos.

Keep in mind that Microsoft can transform your business with SharePoint. Now that’s a software galaxy in need of some refurbishment. Perhaps the Facebook or Google smart software libraries can help?

Stephen E Arnold, November 13, 2015

On the Prevalence of Open Source

November 11, 2015

Who would have thought, two decades ago, that open source code was going to dominate the software field? Vallified’s Philip O’Toole meditates on “The Strange Economics of Open-Source Software.” Though  the industry gives so much away for free, it’s doing quite well for itself.

O’Toole notes that closed-source software is still in wide use, largely in banks’ embedded devices and underpinning services. Also, many organizations are still attached to their Microsoft and Oracle products. But the tide has been turning; he writes:

“The increasing dominance of open-source software seems particularly true with respect to infrastructure software.  While security software has often been open-source through necessity — no-one would trust it otherwise — infrastructure is becoming the dominant category of open-source. Look at databases — MySQL, MongoDB, RethinkDB, CouchDB, InfluxDB (of which I am part of the development team), or cockroachdb. Is there anyone today that would even consider developing a new closed-source database? Or take search technology — elasticsearch, Solr, and bleve — all open-source. And Linux is so obvious, it is almost pointless to mention it. If you want to create a closed-source infrastructure solution, you better have an enormously compelling story, or be delivering it as part of a bigger package such as a software appliance.”

It has gotten to the point where developers may hesitate to work on a closed-source project because it will do nothing for their reputation.  Where do the profits come from, you may ask? Why in the sale of services, of course. It’s all part of today’s cloud-based reality.

Cynthia Murrell, November 11, 2015

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

The Lack of Digital Diversity

October 27, 2015

Tech companies and their products run our lives. Companies like Apple, Google, and Microsoft have made it impossible to function in developed nations without them.  They have taken over everything from communication to how we entertain ourselves.  While these companies offer a variety of different products and services, they are more similar than different.  The Verge explains that “Apple, Google, And Microsoft Are All Solving The Same Problem.”

Google, Apple, and Microsoft are offering similar services and products in their present options with zero to little diversity among them.  For example, there are the personal assistants Cortana vs. Google Now vs. Siri, options for entertainment in the car like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and seamless accessibility across devices with Chrome browser, Continuity, and Continuum.  There are more comparisons between the three tech giants and their business plans for the future, but it is not only them.  Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter are starting to resemble each other more too.

Technology companies have borrowed from each and have had healthy competition for years spurring more innovation, but these companies are operating on such similar principles that it is stifling creativity and startups are taking more risks:

“Without the dual pressures of both the consumer and the stock market, and without a historic reputation to uphold, small startups are now the best engine for generating truly new and groundbreaking innovations. Uber and Airbnb are fundamentally altering the economics of renting things, while hardware designers like Pebble and Oculus are inventing cool new technology that isn’t bound to any particular company’s ecosystem. Startups can see a broader range of problems to address because they don’t have to wear the same economic blinkers as established, monolithic companies.”

The article ends on positive thoughts, however.  The present is beating along at a consistent pace, but in order to have more diversity companies should not be copying each other on every little item.  Tech companies should borrow ideas from the future to create more original ideas.

Whitney Grace, October 27, 2015

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Apple May Open up on Open Source

October 27, 2015

Is Apple ready to openly embrace open source? MacRumors reports, “Apple Building Unified Cloud Platform for iCloud, iTunes, Siri and More.” Writer Joe Rossignol cites a new report from the Information that indicates the famously secret company may be opening up to keep up with the cloudy times. He writes:

“The new platform is based on Siri, which itself is powered by open source infrastructure software called Mesos on the backend, according to the report. Apple is reportedly placing more emphasis on open source software in an attempt to attract open source engineers that can help improve its web services, but it remains to be seen how far the company shifts away from its deep culture of secrecy.

“The paywalled report explains how Apple is slowly embracing the open source community and becoming more transparent about its open source projects. It also lists some of the open source technologies that Apple uses, including Hadoop, HBase, Elasticsearch, Reak, Kafka, Azkaban and Voldemort.”

Rossignol goes on to note that, according to Bloomberg, Apple is working on a high-speed content delivery network and upgrading data centers to better compete with its rivals in the cloud, like Amazon, Google, and Microsoft. Will adjusting its stance on open-source allow it to keep up?

Cynthia Murrell, October 27, 2015

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Binging in the Rain. It Is a Wonderful Feeling

October 23, 2015

I read “Microsoft’s Bing Search Business Finally Is Profitable.” The question is, “Will it remain a money spinner for Microsoft?” Bing became available to those seeking an alternative to the Google in 2009. The history of Microsoft Web search reaches farther back in time. Remember MSN Search circa 1998. I do. I wonder if Microsoft’s financial wizards have included the costs of Microsoft’s Web search activities from 1998 to the present. Probably not. The reason is that the fully loaded costs plus any other financial odds and ends like the cost of money or opportunity would give the CPAs headaches. Bad headaches.

According to the super wonderfully positive write up:

Microsoft isn’t simply relying on Yahoo to grow Bing and search, however. Microsoft has been building Bing into more and more of its products over time.Microsoft officials said during its October 21 first quarter FY 2016 report that its search revenue, excluding traffic-acquisition costs, grew 29 percent, driven by higher revenue per search and search volume.

This is a nice way of saying that we can put a nice spin on this Bing thing. I immediately thought of the hit Singing in the Rain and the lyrics:

So dark up above
The sun’s in my heart
And I’m ready for love
Let the stormy clouds chase
Everyone from the place
Come on with the rain
I’ve a smile on my face

Yes, happy. Will the Jive Aces, the hit musical act, not the Microsoft cheerleaders get a contract to do the music video for this wonderful news?

The loss of the Yahoo almost exclusive for search, the use of Baidu for search results in China, and the deal with Yandex suggest that Bing may be drifting from its Microsofty technology roots. That is actually okay.

Bing’s index consistently seems to omit results which I can locate in lesser beasts, including Qwant and

I noted this passage as well:

Microsoft has been working to streamline its search and advertising business business for months.

The Bing search system is now an information access portal. Search is important, but the wrappers now differentiate information retrieval from information access. Will the revenues from the new Bing payback previous investments in search? Ask a Microsoft accountant.

Stephen E Arnold, October 28, 2015

Concept Searching SharePoint White Paper

October 22, 2015

I saw a reference to “2015 SharePoint and Office 365 State of the Market Survey White Paper.” If you are interested in things SharePoint and Office 365, you can (as of October 15, 2015) download the 40 page document at this Concept Searching link. A companion webinar is also available.

The most interesting portion of the white paper is its Appendix A. A number of buzzwords are presented as “Priorities by Application.” Note that the Appendix is graphical and presents the result of a “survey.” Goodness, SharePoint seems to have some holes in its digital fabric.

The data for enterprise search are interesting.


Source: Concept Searching, 2015

It appears that fewer than 20 percent of those included in the sample (not many details about the mechanics of this survey the data for which was gathered via the Web) do not see enterprise search as a high priority issue. About 30 percent of the respondents perceive search as working as intended. An equal number, however, are beavering away to improve their enterprise search system.

Unlike some enterprise search and content processing vendors, Concept Search is squarely in the Microsoft camp. With third party vendors providing “solutions” for SharePoint and Office 365, I ask myself, “Why doesn’t Microsoft address the shortcomings third parties attack?”

Stephen E Arnold, October 22, 2015

Microsoft: Yandex Looking Better than Bing

October 13, 2015

I read “Russia’s Yandex Teams Up with Microsoft for Windows 10.” Microsoft has its work cut out in the search and retrieval sector. The Fast Search & Transfer deal for $1.2 billion, the Powerset technology, the infusion of wizards from Australia, and the wild and crazy promotion for Bing—much activity, questionable payoff.

According to the write up:

Russia’s biggest search engine Yandex said on Tuesday Microsoft would offer it as the default homepage and search tool for Internet browsers across its Windows 10 platform in Russia and several other countries.

I understand the Yandex does a better, no, make that, a much better job indexing content than Bing. In my lectures for professionals engaged in law enforcement and intelligence activities, I show comparisons of output from Bing next to outputs from Yandex. Less Dancing with the Stars and more substance is one way I point up the difference between consumery Bing and Yandex.

According to the write up Microsoft and Yandex have a “strategic cooperation agreement.”

Several observations:

  • Microsoft has talked about search for many years. Its products and services are okay. Outfits like Yandex offer results that are more useful for the types of queries I run. Yandex has been around since 2008. Microsoft leaps into action.
  • Microsoft’s Bing search has evolved along a trajectory I did not foresee. The colors, the pop culture feel, the intrusiveness of Cortana, and the exclusion of content from Microsoft research baffle me.
  • I use Google to locate information about Microsoft’s products and services. That, to me, points to some fundamental problems with Bing.

Net net: Microsoft and search remain and unhappy couple. One question: Will the Microsoft food service people add solyanka to the menu?

Stephen E Arnold, October 13, 2015

Microsoft Bing in Edge is Baidu: Confused?

September 24, 2015

I received an alert about Bing. I usually ignore these. The headline did not reference search. The article is billed as “Windows 10 in China.” I am not sure why I scanned the item, but I noted that the Microsoft blog post contained an interesting factoid about Bing search.

Here’s the passage I noted:

Together [Baidu and Microsoft], we will make it easy for Baidu customers to upgrade to Windows 10 and we will deliver a custom experience for customers in China, providing local browsing and search experiences. will become the default homepage and search for the Microsoft Edge browser in Windows 10.

I wondered if I understood the message. The Windows 10 browser, called Edge, will include a Web and local search function. The search is going to be provided by Baidu for “local browsing and search experiences.”

I find this interesting for two reasons: Is Bing, assisted by a search wizard from Australia, now “funneling” queries to Baidu? and Has Microsoft given up on the job of indexing Chinese language content?

I recall reading “About Microsoft Research Asia,” and learning that one of the goals for Microsoft’s expanding research activities in Asia was:

Search and online advertising takes Web search and online advertising to the next level by applying data-mining, machine-learning and knowledge-discovery techniques to information analysis, organization, retrieval and visualization.

Now the company is relying on a third party for search. Is this a signal that Bing is not up to the search and retrieval job in China?

Stephen E Arnold, September 24, 2015

Microsoft Upgrades Test New Search Feature

September 23, 2015

It is here at last! After several years, Microsoft has finally upgrades its SharePoint and it comes with an exciting list of brand new features.  That is not all Microsoft released an upgrade for; Microsoft’s new cloud hybrid search also has a beta.  PC World examines the new Microsoft betas in the article, “Microsoft Tests SharePoint 2014 And Enterprise Cloud Hybrid Search.”

SharePoint, the popular collaborative content platform, is getting well deserved upgrade that will allow users to finally upload files up to ten gigabytes, a new App Launcher for easier accessibility for applications, simplified file sharing controls, and better accessibility on mobile devices.  As with all Microsoft upgrades, however, it is recommended that SharePoint 2016 is not downloaded into the product environment.

The new cloud hybrid search will make it easier for users to locate files across various Office 365 programs:

“On top of the SharePoint beta, Microsoft’s new cloud hybrid search feature will allow Office 365 users who also run on-premises SharePoint servers to easily access both the files stored in their company’s servers as well as those stored in Microsoft’s cloud. This means that Microsoft Delve, which gives users an at-a-glance view of their team members’ work, can show files that are stored in a company’s servers and in Microsoft’s servers side by side.”

The new search feature will ease server’s workload for creating and maintaining search indices.  Microsoft is encouraging organizations to switch to its cloud services, but it still offers products and support for on-site packages.

While the cloud offers many conveniences, such as quick access to files and for users to be able to work from any location, the search function will increase an ease of use.  However, security is still a concern for many organizations that prefer to maintain on-site servers.

Whitney Grace, September 23, 2015
Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

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