Analysis of Microsoft’s efforts in the database management, analytics, and data connectivity markets. Related subjects include:

November 25, 2012

The future of search

I believe there are two ways search will improve significantly in the future. First, since talking is easier than typing, speech recognition will allow longer and more accurate input strings. Second, search will be informed by much more persistent user information, with search companies having very detailed understanding of searchers. Based on that, I expect:

My reasoning starts from several observations:

In principle, there are two main ways to make search better:

The latter, I think, is where significant future improvement will be found.

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July 8, 2009

Google declares total war on Microsoft

Google blogged Tuesday night about a new project, the Google Chrome Operating System. Highlights include:

Obviously, Google Chrome OS is a direct attack on Microsoft — even more so than Google Wave, which I’ve predicted will “play merry hell with Microsoft Outlook, Microsoft Word, Microsoft Exchange, Microsoft SharePoint, and more,” or for that matter than Google Mail and the rest of Google Apps. Taken together, Google’s initiatives suggest that an all-out Google-Microsoft war is coming, in a conflict that many people have been expecting — and analyzingfor years.

So how will this all shake out? Well, let’s start with some basic points:

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May 29, 2009

Google Wave — finally a Microsoft killer?

Google held a superbly-received preview of a new technology called Google Wave, which promises to “reinvent communication.” In simplest terms, Google Wave is a software platform that:

If this all works out, Google Wave could play merry hell with Microsoft Outlook, Microsoft Word, Microsoft Exchange, Microsoft SharePoint, and more.

I suspect it will.

And by the way, there’s a cool “natural language” angle as well. Read more

April 3, 2009

A savage critique of Microsoft’s online efforts

Loose Wire Blog offers a savage critique of Microsoft Encarta (whose discontinuation was recently announced). Although the blog seems in general to be a bit over-the-top curmudgeonly, that particular post seemed well-reasoned.

I’d like to make a more general comment about Microsoft: its online stuff is awful, and Encarta is no different. There are already plenty of people musing on why Encarta died, but I’d say one good reason is that it’s hard to access and get your mind around as pretty much every Microsoft online property.

October 11, 2008

Lynda Moulton prefers enterprise search products that get up and running quickly

Lynda Moulton, to put it mildly, disagrees with the Gartner Magic Quadrant analysis of enterprise search. Her preferred approach is captured in:

Coveo, Exalead, ISYS, Recommind, Vivisimo, and X1 are a few of a select group that are marking a mark in their respective niches, as products ready for action with a short implementation cycle (weeks or months not years).

By way of contrast, Lynda opines:

Autonomy and Endeca continue to bring value to very large projects in large companies but are not plug-and-play solutions, by any means. Oracle, IBM, and Microsoft offer search solutions of a very different type with a heavy vendor or third-party service requirement. Google Search Appliance has a much larger installed base than any of these but needs serious tuning and customization to make it suitable to enterprise needs.

In particular, her views about FAST (now Microsoft) are scathing.

August 4, 2008

Google vs. Microsoft search, per Seth Grimes

Seth Grimes did a head-to-head comparison of Google and Microsoft Live Search results about the Microsoft/DATAllegro deal, 10 hours after it was announced. He found that Google had picked up a number of relevant results, while Live Search hadn’t. (And this was on the main search pages, not on News or Blogs.) He goes on to note that Yahoo’s “contextual” ads were badly irrelevant (Google didn’t have any at all).

What this boils down to, mainly, seems to be a major win in spidering speed for Google vs. Microsoft Live Search.

And yes Seth — I like you too. 🙂

June 19, 2008

6 trends that could shake up the text analytics market

My last two posts were based on the introductory slide to my talk The Text Analytics Marketplace: Competitive landscape and trends. I’ll now jump straight ahead to the talk’s conclusion.

Text analytics vendors participate in the same trends as other software and technology vendors. For example, relational business intelligence and data warehousing products are increasingly being sold to departmental buyers. Those buyers place particularly high value on ease of installation. And golly gee whiz, both parts of that are also true in text mining.

But beyond such general trends, I’ve identified six developments that I think could radically transform the text analytics market landscape. Indeed, they could invalidate the neat little eight-bucket categorization I laid out in the prior post. Each is highly likely to occur, although in some cases the timing remains greatly in doubt.

These six market-transforming trends are:

  1. Web/enterprise/messaging integration
  2. BI integration
  3. Universal message retention
  4. Portable personal profiles
  5. Electronic health records
  6. Voice command & control

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April 7, 2008

Yahoo indeed seems to want an all cash deal

The Microsoft/Yahoo negotiation is in a very public phase right now. In its latest letter, the Yahoo board makes two references to “certainty,” in one case spelling out that this encompasses “certainty of value” and “certainty of closing.”

It’s hard to imagine what the former could mean other than “Please make an all-cash offer (or, better yet, go away).” But I previously noted, Microsoft can indeed afford to buy Yahoo entirely for cash.

The latter part is a reference to the antitrust boogeyman, obviously a non-trivial concern whenever Microsoft is involved.

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February 14, 2008

Yahoo wants to follow AOL into the dead pool

Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang has put out a shareholder letter in which he commits Yahoo to pursuing the strategies that have already devastated AOL. To wit:

This is exactly what AOL tried in the late 1990s, except that they also had the best dial-up connectivity in the world. I know; Linda and I were strategic consultants to AOL then.* And we told them that while the rest of their strategy was excellent, it would be to no avail unless their tools matched the quality of what people could get in the office or elsewhere online. Because if AOL’s technology didn’t catch and keep up, people would just laugh and go elsewhere. (Even my parents, who still use AOL mail, go outside AOL for their web surfing. AOL is getting very little revenue from them, and they’re about as captive as AOL users get.)

*Please note — AOL was a great client, but the people we dealt with are (for the most part) long gone, and our NDAs ran out years ago.

That’s brain-dead. Just consider how far technology has taken Google, how fast gaming technology advances, or how fickle internet users are about switching to the latest and greatest online services. What’s worse, Yahoo seems to mean it, given how many serious technology leader types are out on the street in connection with the recent layoffs.

Pretty much the only remaining hope for the Yahoo brand(s) and services is for the Microsoft acquisition to go through, and for Microsoft/Yahoo to unlock the deal’s huge potential synergies — which, while far from being certain, is at least realistically possible.

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February 10, 2008

Microsoft could EASILY pay $40/share for Yahoo, in cash

The Microsoft/Yahoo negotiations are underway. Mike Arrington and Henry Blodget are fretting about Microsoft’s stock price decline in reaction to the deal.

It’s all nonsense. According to Microsoft’s 10-K statements, they have $27 billion in cash and equivalents and have $14-17+ billion/year in cash flow from operations. Assume they have to pay $40/share for Yahoo’s 1.4 billion shares in an all-cash deal (meaning they have to borrow around $30 billion). Assume that building out data centers adds a couple of billion of dollars a years in new capital costs. They can still pay all the debt back in three years. It’s all a non-issue, if they think the acquisition is worth it.

So is it? I see tons of synergies, but I’ll confess to not having quantified them. I’m also more optimistic about post-merger execution than many observers are. I do think Microsoft will have to pay up to complete the deal.

And I think Henry Blodget is proposing a false dichotomy when he suggests Microsoft is wrongly favoring ad-supported online software over subscription online software. Ad-supported personal use and subscription-supported enterprise use can co-exist.

EDIT: I forgot about the FAST deal when I wrote this, which will cost a few billion dollars more when it closes. But there was enough slack in the calculations to cover it. Microsoft could indeed pay the debt off over 3-4 years, although it would surely arrange a somewhat longer term for flexibility.

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