Microsoft: Built From Scratch, The Interface Migrates to the Web

Three things struck me as I reflect back on my trip to Microsoft Tuesday. One, it's not wise to dismiss the company as being "at the first grade level" or "behind" the rest of the pack. Second, the fact that Microsoft came late to the search game just might be…

msft_118x35Three things struck me as I reflect back on my trip to Microsoft Tuesday. One, it’s not wise to dismiss the company as being “at the first grade level” or “behind” the rest of the pack. Second, the fact that Microsoft came late to the search game just might be an advantage. And third, I need to get some face time with the Windows team, because I went into the day wondering if MSN isn’t becoming MSFT’s future interface/platform play, with Windows relegated to a supporting role (as DOS was to Windows) and, well, nothing I heard convinced me otherwise. And that certainly can’t be right. Or can it?

cole-1I met first with David Cole, who runs MSN and has a long history at the company, in particular with Windows and web technology. Much of what we discussed I need to save for my column, but suffice to say we covered a broad range of topics, including Longhorn integration (yes, MSN and search are being built with an eye toward that eventuality), the Web OS meme (while not dismissive of the idea, Cole thought it was just one of many approaches to solving computing and information service problems), and of course, competition with Google and the rest of the field. Cole began by outlining how MSN has shifted to its current strategy, based on building scaled software services that break into two major buckets: communications services (MSN Messenger, Hotmail, etc) and information services (search, content, etc.). Yusuf Mehdi, who I met with next, runs information services, and we had a pretty detailed chat about the present and future of search. That conversation was for the book alone, due to timing issues. I can report, however, that Yusuf was pretty charged up about what they are building.

So why did I leave thinking that MSFT’s late start in search could be an advantage? Well, think about it. The company has massive resources, and the folks in charge are pretty smart. So they get to tackle the search problem with no legacy issues and no presumptions with regard to approach. There are any number of hurdles in search – starting with how to scale your infrastructure and moving into how to integrate results with personalized data – and many of these might best be tackled by starting fresh. Plus, on the talent side, MSFT is really the only viable player that can offer engineers unlimited resources and the chance to start from scratch. I know, the Valley mill says MSFT is having a hell of a time hiring, but when I asked that question up in Redmond, I got quite the opposite answer.

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Time Warner: Get Over AOL Already

As I watch the internet business really gain traction, I am reminded of a key player which, to my mind, remains unacceptably hobbled. Yup, it's my AOL hobbyhorse, and I'm in a mood to saddle up. Maybe it was the MSN trip, I dunno. But I've written this before, and…

As I watch the internet business really gain traction, I am reminded of a key player which, to my mind, remains unacceptably hobbled. Yup, it’s my AOL hobbyhorse, and I’m in a mood to saddle up. Maybe it was the MSN trip, I dunno. But I’ve written this before, and I will say it again. The people running Time Warner, who lost their company to AOL in 2001, then won it back in bitter street fighting during 2002, need to stop punishing AOL for the damage the deal did to their net worth (don’t think business is personal? Talk to Time Warner folks. Trust me, it’s personal. And it ain’t just the execs. It’s the whole Time Warner establishment…). My prescription? Cut AOL loose to be the mammoth success it could be, if only its management didn’t have to cowtow to Time Warner’s rear view mirror approach to the world. I mean, could you imagine Google, Yahoo, or even IAC run by Dick Parsons?

Here’s the lead to a recent Washington Post piece on AOL:

When AOL Chief Executive Jonathan Miller strides into the 10th floor boardroom at the Time Warner Center in New York tomorrow, he will face a difficult challenge: persuading board members that America Online can return to growth, even as its core dial-up subscription business continues to rapidly shrink.

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DIY Search

Well, OK, if you're Matt Wells, you can do it yourself. Gigablast is amazing, in that it really is just Matt. Here's an interview that I read on the plane on the way to MSFT yesterday. Talk about dissonance. Matt Wells, one guy in New Mexico. MSFT, well, MSFT. My…

mattWell, OK, if you’re Matt Wells, you can do it yourself. Gigablast is amazing, in that it really is just Matt. Here’s an interview that I read on the plane on the way to MSFT yesterday. Talk about dissonance. Matt Wells, one guy in New Mexico. MSFT, well, MSFT. My report on MSFT by the way is held up a bit as I clear some PR issues as to what I can and cannot report right now….stay tuned.

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Nutch Update

The recent announcement of Mozdex, which is leveraging the Nutch open source engine, reminded me to ping Doug Cutting and see how things were going with the Nutch project. He replied that while Mozdez only crawls a few million pages, it's a start, and he was pleased to see folks…

logo_nutchThe recent announcement of Mozdex, which is leveraging the Nutch open source engine, reminded me to ping Doug Cutting and see how things were going with the Nutch project. He replied that while Mozdez only crawls a few million pages, it’s a start, and he was pleased to see folks starting to use Nutch. He also pointed to ObjectsSearch, another site which uses Nutch.

But Doug said that his focus these days with Nutch is not to try to get a major, open source alternative to Google or Yahoo out there, though that remains a long term goal. Instead, he reports:

I’m opting for organic growth: get some users and developers
will follow.

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Good Evening. More IPOs For You…Including a Mapping Giant…

Salesforce seems to be finally going ahead, an amended filing is here. They apparently had to deal with a bunch of SEC stuff, but it's on again. Lead banker: Morgan. Revs in 2003: Close to $100 million. Profits around $3.5mm. And Navteq filed while I was at MSFT, the docs…

Salesforce seems to be finally going ahead, an amended filing is here. They apparently had to deal with a bunch of SEC stuff, but it’s on again. Lead banker: Morgan. Revs in 2003: Close to $100 million. Profits around $3.5mm.

And Navteq filed while I was at MSFT, the docs are here. Navteq, you say? Who the f*** are they? Well, the provide the mapping info for Yahoo, auto nav systems, et al. The CDDB of maps! OK, revs in 2003…ready? $237 million. HOLY SHITE! But wait, they have operating income of nearly $65 million. And some odd tax stuff (any CPAs out there?) which put their net income at … $235 millon! Oh my goodness….Bankers Credit Suisse and Merrill.

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Good Morning, Your Net IPO Today Is….

Lindows. Go, Linux, Go. PS – Astute readers point out, Lindows is a WRHambrecht deal…Open IPO…Way to go, Hambrecht!…

sloganLindows. Go, Linux, Go.

PS – Astute readers point out, Lindows is a WRHambrecht deal…Open IPO…Way to go, Hambrecht!

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Taking the Day Off, Headed to MSFT

Going to MSFT today (well, early on the 20th) to meet with David Cole, who runs .net and MSN, and Yusuf Mehdi, who runs search and most of MSN for David. Should be darn interesting. Scoble, you around? If so, email me jbat at batellemedia.com. Anyone care to suggest questions…

Going to MSFT today (well, early on the 20th) to meet with David Cole, who runs .net and MSN, and Yusuf Mehdi, who runs search and most of MSN for David. Should be darn interesting. Scoble, you around? If so, email me jbat at batellemedia.com.

Anyone care to suggest questions for these two gentlemen? Post away on comments or email me….thanks!

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Double Your Money In Two Months

Well, if you had bought Ask Jeeves in early March, and sold it today, you'd be twice as rich as when you started. It helped that Piper upgraded its stock today in advance of earnings…the stock has gone from 20 to 40 in less than 60 days. Sign of the…

Well, if you had bought Ask Jeeves in early March, and sold it today, you’d be twice as rich as when you started. It helped that Piper upgraded its stock today in advance of earnings…the stock has gone from 20 to 40 in less than 60 days. Sign of the times.

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Want to Grok The Google File System?

Then start here, with the paper describing it. And here, with a blog entry that describes the virtues of having a product platform. Excerpt: We have designed and implemented the Google File Sys- tem, a scalable distributed file system for large distributed data-intensive applications. It provides fault tolerance while running…

Then start here, with the paper describing it. And here, with a blog entry that describes the virtues of having a product platform.

Excerpt:

We have designed and implemented the Google File Sys-
tem, a scalable distributed file system for large distributed
data-intensive applications. It provides fault tolerance while
running on inexpensive commodity hardware, and it delivers
high aggregate performance to a large number of clients.
While sharing many of the same goals as previous dis-
tributed file systems, our design has been driven by obser-
vations of our application workloads and technological envi-
ronment, both current and anticipated, that reflect a marked
departure from some earlier file system assumptions. This
has led us to reexamine traditional choices and explore rad-
ically different design points.
The file system has successfully met our storage needs.
It is widely deployed within Google as the storage platform
for the generation and processing of data used by our ser-
vice as well as research and development efforts that require
large data sets.

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Good Day, Your Net IPO Today Is…

Blue Nile. Bankers Merrill, Weisel, Bear Sterns. 2003: $128 million revenues, $11.3 million profits (not including an odd $15 million tax credit, which takes profit to $27 million). They sell jewelry online. Prospectus here and here….

bluenileBlue Nile. Bankers Merrill, Weisel, Bear Sterns. 2003: $128 million revenues, $11.3 million profits (not including an odd $15 million tax credit, which takes profit to $27 million). They sell jewelry online.

Prospectus here and here.

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