Google and the Network Computer

[via Suhit Anantula] New York Post speculates based on some of Google’s recent hires:

The broader concept Google is pursuing is similar to the “network computer” envisioned by Oracle chief Larry Ellison during a speech in 1995.

The idea is that companies or consumers could buy a machine that costs only about $200, or less, but that has very little hard drive space and almost no software. Instead, users would access a network through a browser and access all their programs and data there.

The concept floundered, but programmers note that Google could easily pick up the ball. Already, its Gmail free e-mail system gives users 100 megabytes of storage space on a remote network providing consumers a virtual hard drive.

“I think a similar thing [to the got network computer] is developing in a more organic way now,” said Jason Kottke, a New York-based Web developer who follows Google’s moves. “People are ready for it. Instead of most of your interaction happening with Windows or Mac, you’re spending a lot of time with Google-built interfaces.”

I am not surprised. I see the world moving to thin clients and centralised computing as networks become better. It is what Emergic is all about. But I don’t see Google getting the hardware business and building cheaper computers. They would much rather focus on the existing world where PCs and cellphones exist, rather than worry about getting thin clients out. Google will build the backend platform for services which they can target to people via browsers. Who builds and sells the (network) computers is not going to be their business.

Spam Crisis – Over!?

fred Wilson writes that the spam probem has been solved. He quotes from a ZDnet article:

Myth: Corporations can’t deal with the spam flood.
Reality: Yeah, they can. Using CNET as an example, our server-side spam filtering works really well. In fact, the IS guys recently told me I could stop using MailFrontier on my PC and just let their mail servers kill spam. Yeah, right. But that night I apprehensively switched off MailFrontier and went home, expecting an onslaught of spam the next morning. Nope. No perceptible increase at all. And that was almost two weeks ago. Server-side filtering works well.

Myth: Spam is costing corporations a fortune to manage.
Reality: The server-side spam blocker SpamAssassin is open source, and it’s free. Meanwhile, disk storage is the fastest decreasing expense item in all of IT, and IT will continue to shrink. (How do you think Gmail can offer the unwashed masses a gig of online storage?) And it seems nonsensical that corporations are spending money on lots of extra bandwidth just to handle the volume of spam. All of their bandwidth needs are increasing, and spam e-mail is just a part of that.

Myth: “I can’t get anything done because I have so much spam to deal with.”
Reality: You’re sandbagging.

Now, if your company isn’t filtering spam at the server, it’s their fault you’re swamped. If they are filtering it and you’re still bamboozled by the fraction of spam that does get through, then the hum of the air conditioner must also be killing you.

I agree with Fred and ZDnet — but I have a vested interested, considering we have a solution for corporates – Emergic CleanMail – which does just that (server-side filtering).

Matt Blumberg has some additional thoughts. “I’m not sure as Fred says the crisis is over — but I think it’s on the way to being minimized…I’m happy to say Spam isn’t still in Crisis Mode, but it’s not resolved either — how about Approaching Denoument?”

On a related note, WSJ writes:

Last month, MessageLabs Inc., a company that issues monthly reports on spam, said that 84% of all e-mail sent was junk mail, after hitting a peak of 95% in July. But rival Brightmail Inc. put the number at 66%. Competitors Postini Inc. and FrontBridge Technologies Inc. both issued estimates somewhere in between. Disparities in the data have been even greater in the past. All of the companies sell antispam software.

Furthermore, the estimates show conflicting trends. FrontBridge and Brightmail, for instance, says the spam problem continues to escalate, while Postini’s numbers show it has peaked. AOL, meanwhile, says it blocks between two billion and 2.5 billion spam messages a day, and that has held steady for the past year.

Great Service

Shrikant Patil points to a Fast Company article:

What is great service ? Who defines it ? How do you measure it ? How do you know you have delivered it well ? Good service is like solving a problem _ delivering what people expect to receive. Great service is getting below the surface of the problem – delivering what no one expects to receive. It’s listening, learning, assessing, refining. Great service require hard work, perseverance and isn’t easy to achieve.

Mark Twain remarked : “All saints can do miracles, but few of them can keep a hotel”. Every customer is different. Every problem is different. You can’t prepare scripts to cover every situation, let alone every personality. We have to recognise that great service requires sound judgement and good judgement starts with deep knowledge. The results is a permanent conversation about quality, performance and standards. For those who thought service is easy to deliver and sustain, it ain’t.

Tech, Productivity and Life

Martin Tobias asks 3 questions…
1. Over the last five to seven years has technology increased or decreased your personal productivity?
2. Increased or decreased your overall quality of life?
3. Strengthened or weakened your interpersonal and family relationships?

…and answers: “1. decreased, 2. increased, 3. weakened.” His post has the explanations.

What is he looking for Web 2.0? “Technology that actually reduces the technology footprint in my life. Applications that result in a net increase in productivity. And most importantly, technology that enables me to strengthen interpersonal and family relationships. That technology needs to be very easy to use and easy to integrate into my life.”

Internet Opps for Small Businesses

Adam Hanft writes:

The entrepreneurial edge. We’ve seen it in action and we know what it represents. The ability to respond quickly to opportunity. To see trends before they leap into front page fodder. To seize and run with new technology before large and lumbering competitors wake up and smell the skim decaf latte.

It’s an instinct and behavior that’s true most of the time. But puzzlingly, I don’t see it happening in the hot and buzzy area of Internet marketing –specifically, as it relates to two distinct areas: search marketing and rich media.

Search marketing, of course, is the practice of using keywords and other terms to drive Web surfers and Web seekers to your site. It’s the phenomenon behind Google’s monumental market cap and the holy grail of one-to-one communication: Someone raises their hand and says, “I am interested in learning more about this subject, or this product category, or this service area.” No more qualified, valuable prospect exists on the face of this ozone-depleted, fossil-fuel dependent earth.

The second online marketing opportunity that entrepreneurs need to grab is rich media. While traditional banners are declining in use as an advertising vehicle — they’re boring and uninspiring — rich media is booming. “Rich media” describes a range of more sophisticated and involved online advertising formats – messages enhanced by sound and motion, by interactivity, by pull-down menus, or other multimedia options. Sometimes, rich media units float or “take over” a page, as with the industry-leading, innovative messages made available from PointRoll.

A9

Amazon has added new features to its A9 search engine. Writes John Battelle:

A9 has broken search into its two most basic parts. Recovery is everywhere you’ve been before (and might want to go again); discovery is all that you may wish to find but have yet to encounter. A9 attacks recovery through its original Search History feature and its integrated toolbar, which tracks every site you visit. But new to this version of the site is a feature A9 calls “Discover,” which finds sites you might be interested in based on your click stream and — here’s the neat part — the click streams of others.

What Manber & Co. have built with A9 is more of a Web information management interface, with search as its principal navigational tool. They are betting that over time, Web users will come to recognize, then demand, that their search service not only find sites based on queries but also remember where they have been and what they have clicked on. A9 is also a bet on search as an interface to structured information, like the GuruNet reference library or the Internet Movie Database. For certain searches (A9 uses “Clark Gable” as an example), the result is an extremely powerful report, including everything from images of the star to his film biography to book references and related sites others have found useful. (Even this approach is not entirely new: Yahoo and Ask have taken similar tacks with certain results.)

Business Week adds: “A9 is aiming for the Holy Grail of the Internet business: to be the prime place for connecting people searching for just about anything — information, products, or services — with those who can provide them.”

Jeremy Zawodny: “Rather than making search a “lean and mean” operation the way that Google had, A9 is trying to make searching the web a different kind of experience. They’re encouraging exploration while also trying to tie in your previous behavior (past queries).”

Marketing Playbook has more on A9.

As WSJ outlines, some of the innovations coming out from the various search engines are being directed in two directions:

Desktop Search: Searches your hard drive and e-mail for info that is contained within documents and messages. Picks up where Microsoft’s current file finding features fall short.

Personal Web: Similar to Web bookmarks stored online, this lets you save links to sites, but also lets you share them by-e-mail and search within them.

TECH TALK: Thinking A New Food Portal: A Wishlist

The past few years have seen the emergence of many new technologies which promise to change the way we consume content, in much the same way as the combination of iPods and iTunes has transformed the way many consume music. Cellphones are now micro-computers with always-on connections to the Internet, broadband connections can download video clips quickly, and blogs and RSS are creating an easier way to publish and subscribe to content. So, how can all of this impact the world of Indian food portals? Lets imagine the future. What if we could get

Improved Search: The ability to search by ingredients would be extremely useful. So, I should be able to identify the items that I have, and see what can be made out of those? While a brute-force text search can do the same thing, a better way would be to use XML to capture the ingredient data and then build search around it.

Calorie Information: In a world where there is an increasing emphasis on eating the right stuff, nutritional information becomes especially important. For each recipe, it would be good to get additional details like calorie count, with break-up in terms of fats, proteins and carbohydrates.

Recipes on Mobiles: While SMS is still quite limiting with its 160-character cap, the new generation of phones are increasingly coming equipped with Internet access. This means that the portal needs to be browsable on cellphones. SMS could still be used to deliver tips and other microcontent.

Videos: There are many TV programmes (especially on Sunday afternoon) which show how to make specific food items. The problem is that these are not available when we want them. Give the increase in broadband connections, such video content can now be made available on-demand. So, imagine seeing Saroj demonstrate the entire process of making the Daal Baati, rather than just having textual information with photos.

RSS: Food portals should publish RSS feeds for their incrementally updated content. Even though the RSS aggregators and users are still a small fraction of users, over time more and more content is likely to be get consumed in aggregators.

Community: Involving the readers is an extremely important element of the next-generation food portal. This needs to start with reviews and ratings, and extend to contributions like the way Recipezaar has done (it now has nearly 100,000 recipes). The site could also play host to food blogs. Building a community around the portal is very essential for viral marketing for the website, and is one of the key requirements for sustained long-term success.

Information Marketplace: Think of a cross between Craigs List (classifieds) and yellow pages. This can be used to find restaurants in the neighbourhood, and for food-makers (imagine individuals cooking cakes and the like, and selling via this marketplace).

Multiple Languages: Recipes need to be translated to other languages so as to make them available to larger audiences.

These are just a few ideas to begin with. Food is a rich-enough vertical to then also extend into adjacent spaces restaurants and diet plans are two such examples.

Tomorrow: Recipe Web