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Thread: Microsoft (Decline Of)

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Mission Accomplished -- George Bush, 2003.

To Bing Or Not To Bing


Chronogical Blog Entries:



Date: Sat, 06 Mar 2010 12:05:43 +1100

It is now the anniversary of the low point the Australian stock market achieved, last year, during the Gobal Financial Crisis. And it seems like a good time to look again at the Bing hiatus. It almost seems like an eternity since the over-hyped Bing launch. And there is a reason for that ... In the short-attention span focus of the media spotlight, it has been an eternity! ... After all, dear reader, Bing was announced only a couple months after that low point in the Gobal Financial Crisis and it is almost an entire year!

And after all the hoopla, it would seem that the Bing marketing team have redefined the word "success".

Well, to be fair, in the USA at least, there are claims that Bing has captured a sizeable 12% share. But outside of the US there has not been any noticeable gain. In Australia, it seems that Bing is still languishing in third place with little more than three per-cent of the total market!

Of course US consumers have the opportunity to avail themselves of Live Search Cashback ... Surely one of the most audacious schemes concocted in a twenty-first century boardroom? It is quite possible that the gains in US market share were mostly due to the outrageous, loony-tunes Cashback scheme that Microsoft is still running ... But for how much longer?

Since the Dot-Com bubble began, new technology companies have tried many strategies to improve their market share ... There was "Improving the product" ... Or "Increasing advertising" ... "Vertical integration" ... But as far as your humble blogger is aware, Microsoft is the only large software corporation to have tried Paying their customers to do business with them.

And if the idea does catch on it is unlikely to be widely adopted outside of the USA.

Back in those days of Global Finance crisis, panic and commotion, your blogger speculated on the possibility of "Bing" becoming a verb. At the time your blogger humbly concluded that the verb "to bing" simply didn't have legs. Armidale historian, raconteur and poet without a blog, Dan Byrnes agrees. A couple of months ago, he wrote to me and said:

I see you ask, will MS' new search engine "Bing" become a verb? In a word, no, 'cos it's not active enough (I used it three times and haven't been back), and verbs is, sorry, are, about ... You guessed it, activity. Just in case you needed to ask. Still, I suppose, it's not impossible Bing could take the active or passive voice in the future tense, it's sure got a passive voice in the past tense, so far. But let's not confuse the imperfectly pluperfect punters overmuch.

In last week's edition of the economist, there is an article titled "Clicking for Gold". In that article the author mentions that Microsoft say they spent several millions of dollars on developing a spell-checker for their word-processing program. But Google got the raw material for their spell checking algorithm for free, by sifting through the typing and spelling errors entered into the search queries by their users. Google developed a powerful spell-checking tool by trawling through the detritus of user errors. Nowdays rather than use a spell checker ... If there is some uncertainty about how to spell a word, it is easy to just type into a Google tool bar. Most of the time Google will suggest the correct spelling before the word has even been half typed. And there will be suggestions for search terms and associated phrases.

More impressive still is Google's development of automatic language translation and speech recognition. As the article "Clicking for Gold" goes on to elaborate, Google succeeded in building powerful translation and voice recognition services by treating them as pattern recognition problems. Google drew on their immense database and matched up various phrases to create "answers". To quote from the article:

Two newer Google services take the same approach: translation and voice recognition. Both have been big stumbling blocks for computer scientists working on artificial intelligence. For over four decades the boffins tried to program computers to “understand” the structure and phonetics of language. This meant defining rules such as where nouns and verbs go in a sentence, which are the correct tenses and so on. All the exceptions to the rules needed to be programmed in too. Google, by contrast, saw it as a big maths problem that could be solved with a lot of data and processing power.

It is the power of their computing cluster that is the key to Google's lead in the provision of online services.

Although Microsoft may not be able to compete in the search engine market place, the corporation still has enough strength in its fat flabby hands to reach for their lawyers. A couple of weeks ago in Europe, three web companies drafted a complaint to the European Commission which alleged that Google did not play fair --- The naughty search giant was in fact --- Guilty of "Abuse of market power" --- (Gasp!).

The complaints have been traced back to Microsoft (Surprise, Surprise).

Possibly Microsoft may be smarting from the recent European Commision finding against them ... And they are trying for a little "payback". Although, the prospect of Microsoft complaining about abuse of market power is in your blogger's humble opinion, so rich in irony that it would be highly amusing ... If it weren't true.

Also in the USA, another company, Apple is reaching for their lawyers. Apple have taken legal action against HTC for "Patent Infringement". Which demonstrates just how profoundly broken American Patent law is. In particular, Software Patents have grown into a massive unwieldy construction that threatens to become a back-breaking burden for the American economy.

Such patents will crush the life out of innovation rather than encourage it. ... There is almost no chance of a litigation lead recovery. Even in the era of rampant industrial capitalism, Americans would not have been silly enough to allow Ford to lock up the steering wheel and the clutch pedal, and in today's information economy, allowing Apple to lock up touch screen gestures in the USA would be be an exercise in futility and would become yet another drain on America's dwindling technical and intellectual resources.

And in any case, your humble blogger finds it hard to believe that other US giants like Motorola will just sit on their hands and let Apple get away with intellectual claim jumping on such a vast scale.

It would be cheaper and more efficient to just get rid of software patents. Will America get smart enough to fix their profoundly broken Patent laws --- Before it is too late? It may become a crucial issue for the future of software innovation in the USA. If they can't fix it -- And all out Patent Nuclear War broke out between the big portfolio-holders, the American economy would be reduced to a million or so lawyers squabbling like vultures over the corpse of a once mighty software industry.


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