Watson and Shopping: No Service, Just an Assertion

April 26, 2014

I read “Make IBM’s Watson Your Personal Shopping Assistant.” IBM wants to leapfrog www.pricewatch.com, www.amazon.com, and the aging www.mysimon.com, among other shopping services.

Now quite a few people have embraced Amazon’s flawed, yet popular, recommendations service. I am trying to remember when I first noticed this somewhat annoying feature of the digital WalMart. I cannot recall. I am reminded of the weaknesses of the system each time I log in and see recommendations to my wife’s book selections. Undoubtedly she and I are not following Amazon’s best practices. My wife is pretty familiar with my user name and password, Amazon, and the ease with which she can order products (dog vitamins), novels (wonky mysteries infused with herring), and oddments I know won’t plug into my computer systems; for example, something for a faux soft drink machine.

My view is that for some folks, an Amazon habit is going (note the present progressive)  difficult to modify. Even though Amazon is struggling to deliver profit joy, the Amazon online shopping thing has quite a following.

Well, just in the nick of time–is it years too late?—IBM says it will apply the billion dollar baby to meet my shopping needs. Oh, yeah. Here’s what I learned from the write up:

IBM is partnering with Fluid, a digital commerce company, to create a one-on-one experience with Watson’s capabilities. For example, let’s say you’re looking for the perfect gift for your significant other. Tell Watson about the likes and dislikes of your loved one and let the computer score through piles of data, and eventually pick out a product (or group of products) with those details in mind. Or let’s say you’re going on a hike in the Himalayas and need the right gear for your trip: once you tell Watson what you need, the computer does the research and picks out all the right equipment for you.

I suppose this means that Amazon’s reviews are about to be staring at Watson’s tail lights. The article doesn’t pay much attention to Amazon or lesser services that pepper Google results pages with offers of prices, reviews, and suggestions for the procrastinating Mother’s Day shopper.

I read:

IBM is working on an app for XPS that will work on desktops, tablets and smartphones. It will be able to ask the same sort of questions you’d expect from a salesperson in a physical store, but without the hard-sell techniques and with a lot more personalization.

I think my grade school teachers called this the present progressive. I translated this to “it may sound now but nothing is showing up right now.”

Several observations:

First, is IBM or a “partner” going to design, build, debug, deliver, and support this magic carpet shopping service? On one hand, it looks like Watson’s brain trust in Manhattan is on the job. Then it struck me that an outfit called Fluid will have to lift that barrel and tote that bale. My hunch is that IBM will watch from the veranda of the hotel overlooking the laborers unloading the good ship Watson.

Second, I keep reminding myself that IBM has yet to provide a demonstration of Watson that makes it possible for me to compare throughput, precision, and recall with the search systems to which I have access. Talk, it appears, is much easier than making and selling a product.

Third, what about that Amazon thing? The Bezos-A-Rama is busy creating yet another digital monopoly. In addition, that big store offers recommendations along with one click shopping, reviews, a so so search system, and fawning Wall Street believers.

To me it looks as if IBM, on the other hand, is doing what IBM does best: Working its public relations firms extra hard. I hear the faint sound of Tennessee Ernie Ford singing,

You load sixteen tons, what do you get
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don’t you call me ’cause I can’t go
I owe my soul to the company store

Mr. Ford’s backup singers are IBM’s sales and marketing team after a tough day of talking about what Watson will someday soon be. Hard work is moving 16 tons of marketing.

Stephen E Arnold, April 26, 2014

SharePoint Opens Itself Up to Mobile Challenges Debate

April 16, 2014

Microsoft’s feelings have not been spared in the discussion of how late SharePoint was in coming to the mobile game. It seems as if they are digging themselves an ever-deepening hole. CMS Wire covers the latest news in their article, “Huddle Cofounder on SharePoint’s Mobile Challenges.”

The article begins:

“If Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella thought he was doing iPad users a favor by offering them Office support, all he accomplished was opening up a great big can of worms called collaboration, prompting some to argue that SharePoint has had its day. And while changes to Office don’t equate changes to SharePoint, the iPad launch spurred on a broader discussion amongst critics of the faults with SharePoint’s mobile collaboration capabilities.”

Stephen E. Arnold is a longtime leader in search and covers the latest search and enterprise news on his Web site, ArnoldIT.com. A lot of his recent SharePoint coverage has focused on mobile, but most of what SharePoint offers is mere catch-up compared to what users are expecting from consumer level technologies.

Emily Rae Aldridge, April 16, 2014

Infobright at the Mobile World Congress Focuses on Big Data and the Internet of Things

March 21, 2014

The article titled 2014 Mobile World Congress Highlights—Musings of an MWC Veteran on Infobright offers some of the sunny spots from this year’s Mobile World Congress. The event has been held in Barcelona for the past 8 years, and this years boasted some 70,000 attendees and keynote speaker Mark Zuckerberg. It was also, as the article describes, Infobright’s first year exhibiting on the trade show floor. The article explores such areas of interest as the Internet of Things, “monetization” and the boosted attendance of mobile commerce vendors. The article states,

“There was a noticeable increase in the presence of mobile commerce vendors. Again, this ranged from transaction processing infrastructure to user experience applications for transactions, making payments, transferring funds, etc. The major credit card vendors’ presence was highly visible in this area. In underserved/under developed parts of the world, mobile platforms create a tremendous opportunity for enabling the movement of money and commerce.”

In answer to the self-imposed question, what does Infobright have to do with MWC, the article exclaims, Big Data, that’s what! The article describes the “avalanche” of data that all of this technology revolves around. Infobright promises that it is just the man for the job of analyzing big data with the flexibility and speed necessary. Infobright offers a solution if you want to query machine data.

Chelsea Kerwin, March 21, 2014

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

Yandex Offers a Developer Kit for Android

March 19, 2014

Russian search leader Yandex describes its suite for Android developers in a company blog post, “Android Device Manufacturers Get Kitted Out with Yandex.Kit.” The post compares the Android operating system to a “car without the key” for mobile developers—the OS is free, but most of the mobile-device functionality we have come to expect is tangled up in a web of case-by-case agreements. Now, Yandex says their Kit represents that missing key. The write-up explains:

Yandex.Kit is a customisable suite of mobile components available for most versions of Android OS. It has all the basics indispensable for the up-to-date mobile experience. Vendors selling their original Android devices in Russia can enjoy the full Yandex.Kit package, which currently includes an app store, launcher and dialer, browser, maps, a cloud app – 15 apps overall. OEMs targeting other markets can enjoy Yandex.Kit as a trio of Yandex products – Yandex.Shell UI, Yandex.Browser and Yandex.Store.

“And the best part is there are no fees. Yandex.Kit is distributed on a fee-free basis and performs well on virtually any hardware, including the not-so-powerful devices popular in Russia and the CIS. In addition, smartphones carrying Yandex.Kit can be easily branded under the manufacturer’s name.”

The post goes on to list a number of features developers should be excited about, complete with screenshots. For example, their smart dialer pulls data from Yandex’s Business Directory to identify commercial callers not already in a user’s contacts. They also extol the virtues of their mobile browser, calling it “smart, secure and easy-to-use.” Then there are the cloud service, the geolocation-compatible mapping API, and the Store populated with over 100,000 apps. See the article for details.

One of Europe’s largest internet companies, Yandex is the search engine Russians turn to the most. Folks in the Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Belarus, and Turkey also use the service. Yandex says it’s primary goal is to “make people happy” (a tad more specific than “don’t be evil,” but not by much). Launched in 2011, the company is headquartered in Moscow.

Cynthia Murrell, March 19, 2014

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

Digital Government Makes People Unhappy

March 17, 2014

A GCN headline states that “Report Finds US Citizens Unhappy With Digital Government.” All we can say to this is we are not surprised. The Accenture report titled: “Digital Government: Pathways To Delivering Public Services For The Future” says that the US ranks sixth in government using social media and digital services to communicate with people.

US citizens are apparently uncomfortable with using mobile and cloud technology to communicate with the government.

The government launched 140 free apps in both English and Spanish that deal with government services, but 43 percent of the US does not to use them. As for the cloud, US citizens fear that security is not tight enough and their privacy rights are not protected. The report does offer three priorities that the US population wants the government to focus on:

“According to U.S. citizens, the top three priorities for improving future public services are to provide cost-efficient, sustainable services, to deliver a clear and stable long-term vision and to better understand better the priorities of citizens and communities.”

What exactly does that mean? It does not even add up to three! It sounds like a whole bunch of jib jab or a company’s bland mission statement. The US is never satisfied.

Whitney Grace, March 17, 2014
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

Pleading with Microsoft to Step Up Mobile Development

March 12, 2014

Mobile computing is not just the latest trend. It is here to stay, and users of all varieties are pleading with major platforms to offer more mobile functionality. SharePoint should be used to hearing the pleas of users in this arena, but Search Content Management offers a well-written request in their article, “Dear Microsoft: Step Up Mobile SharePoint Development.”

The article sums up the issue:

“Microsoft now stands at a crossroads, surrounded on all sides by able competitors and imprisoned somewhat between its behemoth server technology stack, the growing cloud and the critical need to reinvent the face of its applications. Microsoft has been dragged kicking and screaming into the mobile era. Now it needs to update SharePoint development to really embrace the mobile revolution.”

Stephen E. Arnold of ArnoldIT.com is a longtime expert in all things search. He knows that the future is mobile and gives a lot of attention to the growing movement. He has found that while mobile is a “want,” security and functionality are “needs” in the enterprise. So Microsoft’s challenge will be to give equal weight to these areas.

Emily Rae Aldridge, March 12, 2014

Yahoo and Search

February 24, 2014

Yahoo may not be able to wriggle out of the Microsoft Bing search deal. Microsoft may not be m making much progress in catching Google, and Yahoo may want to swizzle a different spin on Web search. Microsoft’s voice enabled technology seems to be disappointing Ford. The US auto maker may be embracing BlackBerry’s QNX system. Yep, BlackBerry, a stellar outfit in my experience. Microsoft has some issues to resolve particularly if it loses a major account to the shareholder-pleasing Waterloo, Ontario company.

I read “Yahoo Launches $10 Million Research Effort to Invent a Smarter Siri.” I find the notion that a large company can invent voice search that is “better” than another voice search system interesting. Google has a voice search system, and there are a number of companies eager to make their voice search technology available to Yahoo. But Yahoo apparently has confidence in Carnegie Mellon University, the outfit that delivered Lycos, Vivisimo, and Claritech to information seekers in the past.

According to the Technology Review article:

Ron Brachman, head of Yahoo Labs, says that he expects the InMind project to experiment with apps that are capable of rudimentary conversation—for example, asking a person follow-up questions and making suggestions based on new information. “This is missing from Siri,” he says, adding that although Apple’s personal assistant is impressive, it doesn’t attempt to understand the context in which it is being asked a question: it doesn’t understand what the user is doing or might need at the moment.

With Web search shifting to mobile like iron filings following a magnet, users find typing less facile on a mobile device. Will Yahoo crack the code in five years with the help of the CMU professors and students?

Five years is a long time. Like Facebook and Google, Yahoo may find it more expedient to start buying voice recognition companies and licensing available technology. WhatsApp, a company that Facebook bought in February, promptly said, it would not change. I learned today that Facebook will be adding voice calls to WhatsApp. How long did that “will not change” statement endure? WhatsApp did not have five days.

Yahoo may not have five years.

Stephen E Arnold, February 24, 2014

Blackberry Adds SharePoint Access

February 20, 2014

Enterprise is moving toward mobile at a rapid pace, and applications that hope to stay in the game have to adapt. SharePoint has made great strides in mobile in the last two years particularly. And in response, Blackberry is enabling SharePoint mobile functions. Read the story in, “Work Drives for BlackBerry 10 Adds Sharepoint Access for BES Users.”

The article says:

“BlackBerry has updated their Work Drives application to v2.0 today for devices running OS 10.2+. This new version extends the application to allow remote file access to SharePoint sites. This is on top of the network drive access they had in the previous versions. Sadly you still need BlackBerry Enterprise Server 10.2 to use the network shares even though BlackBerry could easily expand the user base for the application by allowing all users to mount network drives.”

Stephen E. Arnold is a longtime leader in search and follows the latest on SharePoint on his Web site, ArnoldIT.com. Arnold finds that organizations are increasingly motivated by mobile technologies, as work and employees is moving increasingly off-site and outside of regular hours.

Emily Rae Aldridge, February 20, 2014

Secure Mobile SharePoint Connectivity

February 17, 2014

SharePoint is definitely moving in the mobile direction, but security remains a concern. MobilityShield is hoping to resolve some of those concerns with their newest product release. Read more in the PR Newswire article, “MobilityShield Reveals New Solution for Secure Mobile SharePoint Connectivity.”

The article begins:

MobilityShield, an innovative solution that guarantees secure mobile connectivity, today launched SharePointShield, a new product that guarantees secure mobile connectivity for users of Microsoft SharePoint. The innovative SharePointShield was developed following the successful launch of LyncShield which enables users to safely use approved mobile devices outside the corporate network to connect through Microsoft Lync. The new solution protects organizations that use SharePoint against Active Directory credentials theft, block DoS, DDoS and brute-force attacks, and enforces connection to registered devices.”

Stephen E. Arnold is a longtime leader in all things search, including SharePoint. And while SharePoint has its ups and downs, it’s not going anywhere. That’s why the increasing availability of add-ons improves the usability of satisfaction of SharePoint implementations. More SharePoint news, tips, and tricks can be located on Arnold’s Web site, ArnoldIT.com.

Emily Rae Aldridge, February 17, 2014

The State Server Side and Client Side Software

February 5, 2014

Software in 2014, the article on the blog Tbray.org offers a state of the software construction. The overall news is positive from the article, with satisfied server developers and good tools for constructing software. The question the article poses is where 2014 will lead in terms of client-side software, and the answer is uncertain. The article suggests that HTTP is universally acceptable and easy to use while almost everything is “built with an MVC or equivalent level of abstraction” in spite of some apps still being created in PHP and Spring. The article posits that storage options are also multiple and strong. However, it also gets into the client-side difficulties the industry faces in the coming years.

The article states:

“When I said “Mobile sucks”, I wasn’t talking about engineering suckage… Crucially, for most of the things you’d want to put in a UI, there’s usually a single canonical solid well-debugged way to do it, which is the top result for the appropriate question on both Google and StackOverflow. But look at all the energy going into browser tech; surely it’s going to catch up with mobile tech any day now?”

The article offers no easy forecasts for the future of the client side. The redundancies in Web, iOS and Android, the mobile form factors among other mobile issues are all problems without simple answers. We are curious what Tim Bray would say about enterprise search software.

Chelsea Kerwin, February 05, 2014

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

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