Posts Tagged ‘Microsoft’

Microsoft buys Powerset. Great News for Semantic Search.

July 1, 2008

I for one was very happy to read that Powerset got acquired by Microsoft.  Rumored price was “roughly” $100M according to TechCrunch.  For those keeping score, that would be .37% of cash on hand for Microsoft, or 14 hours of revenue.  There are three important messages here:

1.  Better search matters.  MSFT wouldn’t be making this move if they didn’t think that a better search technology would help them compete against Google.

2.  Semantic search is real.  Lots of haters (including some folks at Google) like to say that semantic search won’t scale, or that you can’t build a big enough taxonomy or whatever. At Trovix, we know it works. And at Microsoft, someone with a big checkbook just voted that it works.  Semantic technologies are going to completely change the way people interact with data. Microsoft clearly wants to be at the head of that change.

3.  The time for semantic search is now.  The tech highway is littered with technologies that burned out on their own hype without ever delivering the goods.  Now, there are several companies on the cusp, or in Trovix’s case, already shipping products that provide a better user experience based on semantic technologies.  Semantic search can be demoed on applications available to consumers today. Microsoft bought Powerset because they can see a clear path to this technology being a competitive weapon.  They didn’t spend $100M to hire more researchers for the lab. 


Microsoft Investing Big in Search, or Are They?

May 23, 2008

PC World and Ad Age both had articles about Bill Gates’ description of Microsoft and the battle for search.  No surprise that Microsoft is gunning big for Google, and I’d love to know what technologies they think are going to define the next generation of search.  (Besides the word “semantic,” of course.) 

Sadly, no such coverage. While confirming that Gates talked about “new search technologies and future ideas,” both articles swooned over the cash back business model that Microsoft came up with.  Wasn’t that a business model before the .com crash? There were (now dead) companies giving away computers, equity and cash as rewards for traffic. So, good for Microsoft for showing up with a 10 year old idea.  I’m sure it will work out fine for them.

But here’s my real question: What are they doing about search?  People talk about ad serving platforms and keyword management tools as “search,” but they aren’t.  What Microsoft is doing is a business model.  Not a search technology.  The way these articles spin it, Microsoft isn’t even competing on search technology. 

Gates is definitely on the bandwagon that the current approach will be replaced by more intelligence, and semantic approaches.  But does he think that they can out develop Google in this regard? Or is the Microsoft strategy to throw money at the problem? 



Microsoft, Yahoo and Search History

May 5, 2008

Seeing Microsoft walk away from Yahoo made me think of a funny story in John Battelle’s book, The Search.  He tells about how Vinod Khosla tried to get Excite to buy Google.  (This is in 1997.  Excite was a very big deal back then.) 

Fortunately for himself, Larry Page had too much vision, and set a price for Google that was way too high.  He wanted the sick amount of $1.6 million. (Yes, million with an M.  I think he had his eye on a studio apartment in East Menlo Park.) 

So, here’s a case where a search company wanted too much for itself. But they were right in the end.  The question is if Yahoo, if turning away Microsoft, is also going to be right in the end.  Personally, I doubt it. 

Here’s how I see it. Google had unique and powerful technology that solved a real problem that lots of people had: how to find stuff on the Internet.  They just had to grow that into an empire. (Which they did.) Yahoo has a huge amount of traffic. But that isn’t anything all that special.  It’s just traffic.  And it will go away when tastes change. 

Technology is what creates the winners of the future.  Traffic is something that is farmed for money. It’s amazing to me that in 1997, no one saw how valuable the Google technology would become. At the same time, when you think about the big internet players that didn’t have technology (AOL, Netscape, Excite), it makes you wonder if people will be equally amazed at what offer Yahoo walked away from.