Archive for the 'Business' Category
July 6th, 2008
Google’s announcement this week that it will begin to index Flash content is a giant step forward for the search company which has historically left multimedia rich sites made in Flash out of its results. However, I often wonder if Google is stuck in the Middle Ages? The company is the king of text based indexing but has little capability when it comes to indexing multimedia.
Image search seems like a logical starting point. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words, right? To date, Google’s Image Search has relied on examining the text around an image and then determining what the image is about algorithmically. This works to some extent (I use Google’s Image Search all the time) but what about actually analyzing what’s in the image? There are several companies out there that already do this. Take Toronto based Idée. Give their TinEye Image Search Engine a JPEG and they’ll find other JPEGs that are similar to the original. I tried this out with a photo of the Eiffel Tower and they returned several images that contain the Eiffel Tower but weren’t the same as my original. Pretty cool! Their Visual Search Lab is also worth noting. Select a random photo and they’ll return other photos with the same colors. In both these examples, they’re actually analyzing the contents of the images.
Another image search technology Google should note is what Evernote has built. The service lets users collect links, photos, notes, and other multimedia and then search through it. If you upload a photo, Evernote will automatically add tags to the photo from text it recognizes in the photo, essentially indexing it. For example, uploading a photo of a Canon camera box with the Canon logo on it tags the photo with “Canon” automatically. The technology can read all sorts of fonts (the text doesn’t have to be boring) as well as handwriting unless you write like a doctor. Why isn’t Google investing in technology like this?
Google is even more behind when it comes to video search. Their video search is seriously lacking in sources (they only appear to index a couple of the top video sites) and their approach to video has been similar to how they index images by looking at the text around the image. There are a variety of more robust video search engines such as Truveo and Blinkx. However, none of the major ones appear to be taking advantage of speech to text engines, object recognition, facial recognition and other technologies that actually examine the content of the video. Companies like Everyzing, Viewdle, and Digitalsmiths all offer these technologies.
Maybe Google is waiting for the technology to mature or for another large company to take the first step but if they don’t move beyond just examining text, another company could take their place to dominate a growing multimedia search market.
June 23rd, 2008
To date, Apple hasn’t made much of a move into large enterprises. Dell, HP, IBM, and others still dominate that space. However, enterprise adoption of the Mac platform is increasingly important to Apple if they want to continue to grow their market share. After all, the enterprise is where the big money is when it comes to computing. So, it’s only logical that Apple wants into this space but their push into it is surprisingly being spurred by longtime rival Microsoft.
Apple has realized that Microsoft’s inability to support the Office suite on the Mac is holding back Mac sales in the enterprise. Even the most recent version of Office 2008 lags behind it’s 2007 Windows counterpart. For example, Entourage lacks server synchronization of tasks and notes (on the Mac, these are stored on the local machine and not the server), a feature that many office workers use since tasks and notes sync with their Blackberries.
Personally, I’ve refused to use Office 2008 on my Mac because of compatibility issues with its Windows counterpart and instead run Office 2007 in Parallels. Setups like this are an ideal scenario for Microsoft since the user pays for both the Windows OS as well as Office whereas on the Mac, the user would only be paying for Office. However, this additional cost and the related complexity has to be hurting Mac sales. In other words, having an inferior product on the Mac has no downside for Microsoft (it actually helps their revenue) but has a large impact on Apple.
Apple’s big response which hasn’t garnered much media attention is in part Snow Leopard, the next version of their OS which will naively support Microsoft Exchange. In theory, users won’t need Entourage anymore since Apple’s Mail, iCal, and Address Book will directly integrate with Exchange (we’ll see about those tasks and notes).
All this sounds well and good but Apple’s going to have to do more than simply support Exchange in their current lineup. Outlook is incredibly powerful, much more so than Mail and enterprises often value power over simplicity. Pages, Apple’s word processing software pales in comparison to Word, as does Numbers, a competitor to Microsoft’s Excel. It’s going to take more than simple Exchange integration to convince enterprises that the Mac has a software lineup that can go head to head with Microsoft’s Office.
Apple’s other enterprise battle will be the iPhone which will have to beat out Blackberry. For that, they’ve taken a similar approach to Snow Leopard: Exchange support.
Long term, Apple and Microsoft will battle it out for the office desktop but don’t expect Microsoft to go anywhere. I think they’ll start focusing more on backend services that power enterprises like Exchange, something Apple probably isn’t interested in; at least not yet.
June 6th, 2008
This is the last I write about Time Warner Cable for at least a couple weeks, I promise. According to the LA Times, Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo has filed a lawsuit against Time Warner Cable claiming the company made false and misleading statements to subscribers and failed to provide service levels outlined in their franchise cable agreement with the city.
Maybe there is justice in the corporate world. The big question is should the city win, will the subscribers see any money out of all this or will we continue to pay outrageous prices for sub standard service?
June 5th, 2008
Not to be outdone by rival Time Warner Cable, Comcast has announced their new bandwidth cap policy and it makes even less sense than Time Warner Cable’s. Instead of charging customers for overages, Comcast will simply scale back network throughput to customers who use a lot of bandwidth. At least Time Warner Cable’s tax is arguably in place to pay for infrastructure enhancements. Comcast’s strategy is to slow down power users and drive them from their Internet service. I’m not sure alienating power users is a good business strategy. The power users are the ones that the aunts, uncles, grandmas, and grandpas go to for advise when selecting an ISP. Since when is alienating influencers a sound business strategy?
These companies just don’t seem to get it. Increased bandwidth usage by virtually every subscriber is inevitable. Digital delivery is here to stay and bandwidth usage is only going to increase. Instead of trying to keep users on their current infrastructure and punishing them when their use causes the system to groan, Comcast and Time Warner Cable should be focusing on updating their infrastructure like their competitors, the telcos, are doing.
December 30th, 2007
Microsoft has launched a YouTube channel to promote Vista and Live. The only problem for them is that they’re getting flamed by users in the comments. The majority of comments on all their videos talk about Vista sucking and how Apple rules. From a PR perspective, is it better to get your promotional videos out there next to which are “user testimonials” disparaging your product and promoting your competition or doing nothing at all? Seems like a flawed strategy if you ask me.
December 29th, 2007
How’s this for a post-Christmas sale? Best Buy is offering a $50 SIRIUS gift card for a bargain price of $55. That’s right, they’re charging $5 more than the gift card is worth. On what planet does that make sense? Keep in mind these guys are the country’s largest electronics retailers. I personally feel the company preys off of the public’s naiveté of technology and consumer electronics. The company has had a miserable year PR wise within the technology community. Some highlights include:
- Geek Squad Stealing Customer’s Porn
- Lawsuit Alleging that in In Store Kiosks Show Different Pricing Than the Best Buy Site
- Complete Cluelessness about HD
- Open Box Items Costing More Than New Items
- …and who knows about countless others
November 25th, 2007
My friend B.A. has been slaving away on a new site that he created called nobosh (see the definition of bosh if you don’t already know what it means). As a supplement to the site, he’s launched an answers site, called nobosh Answers, where users can ask financial and business questions that are then answered by the site’s community. The answers site alone is pretty spiffy but he also created a version for the iPhone that was featured on Apple’s iPhone Web apps showcase as well as listed as a Staff Pick! Way to go B.A.!
Check out nobosh Answers to get your financial and business questions answered today!
September 25th, 2007
Amazon.com today unveiled their MP3 download service which is clearly an attempt to compete with iTunes’ dominance. The catalog right now is limited to only Universal Music Group and EMI (I’ve still yet to figure out how consumers are supposed to know what artist is on what label). Anyway, it looks pretty promising. The prices are cheaper than iTunes’ DRM versions of songs and the MP3 format means better compatibility with the majority of portable music players; not just the iPod. It will be interesting to see how much business Amazon.com MP3 gets and whether they’ll be tracking if users are sharing music downloaded from the site.
June 13th, 2007
First AT&T wanted to spy on all our phone calls (or at least allow the NSA to). Now it looks like they want to spy on our Internet traffic (this time without any involvement from the NSA). According to the LA Times,
AT&T Inc. has joined Hollywood studios and recording companies in trying to keep pirated films, music and other content off its network — the first major carrier of Internet traffic to do so.
The San Antonio-based company started working last week with studios and record companies to develop anti-piracy technology that would target the most frequent offenders, said James W. Cicconi, an AT&T senior vice president.
This sounds really scary. The only conceivable way to implement this would be to inspect all packets going through their network. As an AT&T DSL subscriber, I certainly don’t want AT&T looking at the content of all my traffic.
A couple months ago, PBS’ Frontline had a great episode called “Spying on the Home Front” which covered AT&T’s wiretapping of United States citizens’ phones. You can watch the episode online for free on the Frontline Web site.
June 10th, 2007
When Google debuted their newest addition to Google Maps two weeks ago, there was much excitement in the air. The new “Street View” allows users to virtually explore the streets of cities like San Francisco and New York and offers 360 degree panoramas that appear as though the user is standing in the street. At first the buzz centered on how Google accomplished this feat. Like a lot of things that Google has recently done, this has been done before (although Google’s interface is arguably the best implementation of it). In the first quarter of 2006, Microsoft launched their Preview version of Local Live.com which allows users to “drive” through streets as if they’re in a car. A French Web site has offered similar functionality for what one person told me has been 5 years. And then of course there’s Amazon’s A9 which offered street views of businesses (more on that in a minute).
Almost immediately after Street View launched, blogs and Web sites popped up chronicling humorous images that Google’s Street View captured. In fact, to date, the only things I’ve been hearing or seeing about Street View are funny images or things like Steve Jobs’ house and car. To date, I haven’t seen an example of why Google Maps’ Street View is actually useful or a viable product other than the cool factor.
Amazon’s A9 service showed how a street view could be combined with online yellow pages in a manner that made business sense. When searching for a business in A9’s yellow pages, the search engine would display the business information as well as pictures of the business (so if you were looking for a small business in a strip mall, you could know what to look out for while you’re driving). Google Maps completely misses the mark on this. For example, search for “bank” in San Francisco, Ca. The result shows me the typical push-pin result view. To get to Street View, you have to push the Street View button which then loses the push-pin you were on. You then have to either drag the icon of the person or double click near the business you want to view (if you remember where it was) and then drag the camera around until you find what you’re looking for. A much more useful version of this would be to 1) display the storefront when in the business push-pin view and 2) be able to go into Street View directly from the push-pin. This is what Amazon’s A9 did and worked very well. Once functionality like that is build, one can “walk” down the street and Google can tell users what other businesses are on that block (and of course advertise to the end user based on that).
In its current implementation, Street View is almost a separate site, sharing only the overhead map view with Google Maps. Until all the features are integrated into one seamless application, I see little use for it except to find people picking their noses or in front of strip clubs.
Speaking of photos of people picking their noses or in front of strip clubs on Google, Privacy International, a “watchdog on surveillance and privacy invasions by governments and corporations” found Google last out of 20+ companies when it comes to privacy protection.