Google and Thin Clients

Search Engine Roundtable continues the discussion about the Internet Operating System and writes about thin clients:

So what is a thin client? It is roughly put software. Or as defined “a client designed to be especially small so that the bulk of the data processing occurs on the server.” Imagine being able to buy a bare bones client whose main processing occurs on a local Google dataserver near you. Think of the applications, many years ago several companies envision this as well, while it never got off the ground it the idea was formed. According to what people are saying about Microsoft’s new Longhorn, the OS will have a similar function in part to do many of the things a thin client can do. Distributed computing is not just for pet project like Google did in 2003 anymore. From the way I see the CPU according to Google or many others is not as important as the data that is contained on a computer. Or the storage that is takes to catalog the entire web. Who really needs to bother with speed and so on if all you need to do is check email, run business applications, and various other functions. We all don’t need a Alienware machine even though some might be inclined to tell you so.

So whats so smart about using Google data processing and storage capabilities? Thin clients will help with NO viruses, NO hard drives, could last for 5-10 years no problem, and if you want something you could easily just subscribe for it. If not, then you don’t have to pay for it. Now the smart thing about what Google is doing is that they are planning to sell data processing to the mass market. Why not? It makes sense from Google’s standpoint. With more than 100,000 servers, you could do more than index the web. You could also come up with a solution to overcome the challenge of storage.

Imagine what a $100 Google thin client in Mexico would do? Something affordable enough for those on a limited income, but also powerful enough to change the way they use a computer and much less store information. The basis is that someone else will do it for you. Today if I brought an eMachine ($200-$300) down to a Mexican (or any) university for example that anyone could use any way they want, can you guess how long that thing would last before it was zapped by viruses, spyware, scumware, trojans, malfunctioning programs, so on and so on. It would be toast in 2 weeks. Imagine if this happened consistently every time you used a computer. Google’s potential solution could change that. Every computer is your computer, you have the ability to access you data from wherever. Not have to worry about CPU or processing speed. Your experience would change the way you live.


John Battelle writes about Transparansee – “a neat technology that lives on top of structured search.”

Transparansee’s “Discovery Search Engine” seeks to address the “stupid computer” problems which plague most structured databases. You most likely have experienced some variant of this: you put in a set of parameters meant to find just what you are looking for – for example, on Fodor’s, you want French bistros in Chelsea priced at $35 with a food rating of 20 or above – and you get no results, or only one or two. You have a sneaking suspicion that the results are missing an entire set of possibilities which are “close enough” to what you want, but you’ve been limited by the parameters you chose – if you open it up too much, you get a bunch of stuff you don’t want. What to do?

Transparensee uses “fuzzy search” algorithms to scour a database and offer on the fly weighting based on any parameter you choose. Presto, what you want to see is at hand. It’s hard to describe, but an “aha” when you see it in action. For example, there may be the perfect French bistro for you, but because it’s one block away in another section of town, it does not get found. With Transparansee, you’d see it at the top of the list, because it matches on so many of the other weights.

This is powerful stuff when you think about it, and it solves a core database search issue, at least for me: you know there is the right answer for the query you are entering, but damned if it isn’t escaping you, due to the blunt nature of structured search.

SAP vs Oracle

The Economist writes about the platform wars in business software:

For SAP, the platform is NetWeaver (and its successor, due in 2007), which is software that sits above a database and links together applications. To increase its chances of success, it is a platform that we will open up to other players, that will build innovation, gushes Henning Kagermann, the boss of SAP. Third-party developers will be able to sell software that works alongside SAP applications, using NetWeaver interfaces.

Oracle, meanwhile, believes that the crucial platform is the database, in which it has almost 60% of the market. It is moving into applications in order to offer the platform as part of an integrated system. The reason you see these companies get into each other’s businesses is that customers are asking the larger vendors to take more responsibility for the infrastructure, says Charles Phillips, president of Oracle.

Two giants are also lurking on the fringes of the war. Mighty Microsoft has bought several firms to sell products for the small business market (but is struggling to integrate them). IBM disdains selling applications and, for now, is focused on its software platform, WebSphere, wary of hurting its services business by competing against its partners.

Blackberry Challenges

Forbes writes about the challenges facing Blackberry (RIM):

Microsoft wants to replace RIM’s e-mail software with its own version, which it offers for free. Microsoft in February lined up Flextronics, one of the world’s largest phone manufacturers, to build phones running Windows Mobile software. One million PalmOne Treos have been sold since the device’s launch in October 2003. A mobile e-mail software startup called Good Technology has signed up 4,000 corporate customers, including Wal-Mart and Dell, by letting companies pick which hardware they want to use.

It’s not so easy for a hardware company to go into business selling software on the side. Palm split its hardware and software divisions into separate firms and has failed to gain significant software share on non-Palm gadgets. In 1999Qualcomm got out of handsets to focus entirely on selling chips and software to mobilemakers.

Balsillie refuses to see the distinction: “Hardware is mostly software. That is a silly demarcation.” What matters to him is reach, getting software from companies like SAP, Oracle and Siebel to work on BlackBerrys. “RIM wants mass adoption. They want as many software applications on their devices as possible,” says Brian Vink, marketing head of Sybase’s iAnywhere mobile data division, which is developing applications for RIM.

TECH TALK: The Future of Search: Information Dashboards Rationale (Part 2)

Attention: The next-generation search engines need to morph into information dashboards with centralised data stores accessible to us on any device at any time. Think of this as the next version of MyYahoo understands our context (location and time of day), is built on our preferences (subscriptions), leverages the wisdom of crowds (tags), and allows for serendipity (discovery). There is seamless mobility as I can access this event store and flow from not just any of the computers but also my mobile device The commodity that the information dashboards seek to optimise is one that has not increased and will not increase Attention To build the new generation of search engines and information dashboards, we need to combine interface innovation with mobility integration and centre them around Attention.

Subscriptions: RSS is the HTML of tomorrow, and Subscriptions will be the Search of tomorrow. RSS is reaching a tipping point and making its way beyond the early adopters. The potential of RSS goes way beyond just reading blogs it is a fundamentally different way to consume informationEven as Search is the window to the Reference Web, the Aggregator is becoming the window to the Incremental Web.

Tags: Tags are the wisdom of crowds. There is every reason for them not to work. And yet, they do. Along with subscriptions, tags are the other fundamental building block of the event-driven interface of tomorrow.

Discovery: As more and more of our interests and actions are available on centralised servers, the process of discovery will become easier not just discovery of content, but also discovery of other people with similar interests. In a sense, the information dashboards have to build upon the social networking sites what our friends and family say means a lot more to us than what someone else says. This creates another layer of search we can view the world in a series of concentric circles which expand the sphere of search and discovery.

Interfaces: We need to think of innovative interfaces and that is where ideas like Ajax come in. But we also need to think beyond the computer to the mobile device. This is where speech comes in. Think of an integrated query-presentation interaction environment and that is where we can learn from video games (and word processors and spreadsheets). As Ramesh Jain puts it in his Gartner interview, the search becomes WYSIWYG what you see is what you get.

In essence, as RSS becomes the de facto standard for syndicating information, how the information is consumed will need to be controlled by the user. This is where the Information Dashboard will come in. It will need to give the user the flexibility to package collections of RSS feeds for viewing for different experiences these could be based on the device I am using (I may want a smaller subset of feeds on the mobile), or time of the day (I may want a different view in the evening as compared to the morning).

Once subscriptions start becoming popular, there will be a need for a new interface for this Web which is built around our lives combining the Incremental, Archived and Community Webs. This is where the next innovation in computing will happen. This is the future of Search not directly in the field of search, but in addressing the root of the problem of information overload. This is where Information Dashboards will thrive built around events, subscriptions, tags and discovery, built with cutting-edge software innovations, available to us on the devices of our choice, and focused around optimizing our Attention.

Next Week: The Future of Search (continued)

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