July 16, 2007

Progress EasyAsk

I dropped by Progress a couple of weeks ago for back-to-back briefings on Apama and EasyAsk. EasyAsk is Larry Harris’ second try at natural language query, after the Intellect product fell by the wayside at Trinzic, the company Artificial Intelligence Corporation grew into.* After a friendly divorce from the company he founded, if my memory is correct, Larry was able to build EasyAsk very directly on top of the Intellect intellectual property.

*Other company or product names in the mix at various times include AI Corp and English Wizard. Not inappropriately, it seems that Larry has quite an affinity for synonyms …

EasyAsk is still a small business. The bulk is still in enterprise query, but new activity is concentrated on e-commerce applications. While Larry thinks that they’ve solved most of the other technical problems that have bedeviled him over the past three decades, the system still takes too long to implement. His rough rule of thumb is that implementation — i.e., building the thesaurus – takes 10% as much effort as overall database design did in the first place. That comment leads to what seems to me to be a pretty obvious suggestion: Focus on selling to sites that have already installed a “semantic layer” (Business Objects’ term) or the equivalent while setting up their BI system – whether or not EasyAsk can get actual partnerships with BOBJ, Cognos, et al. And I’ll stop right there, because I’m not sure whether Larry’s comments on what they have or haven’t done in that regard were meant as general briefing material, or were under NDA in our client relationship.

In the e-commerce area, EasyAsk is a direct competitor to Mercado, with a lot of analogous functionality. As previously noted, they claim their users enjoy particularly strong revenue benefits. After talking about it with Larry, I now feel it’s a sincere and credible claim. Neither he nor I would claim the case has been proven with shining statistical rigor (and my doubts as to its fundamental merits remain greater than his). But Larry is a smart and honest man, and when we discussed it I didn’t happen to catch him in any obvious and uncharacteristic thinking errors.

Takeaways from the conversation included:


One Response to “Progress EasyAsk”

  1. Progress Software progress report | DBMS 2 : DataBase Management System Services on July 10th, 2014 7:20 pm

    […] that as it may, Progress has some interesting thoughts about the possibilities for EasyAsk. Categories: Companies and products, Mid-range, Object, OLTP, Progress, Apama, and […]

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