Advideo? 2006/05/26

The New York Times reported on Tuesday that Google will soon be offering contextually relevant video ad placement on its Adsense network presenting a new opportunity for advertisers and complementing the text-only Adwords service on which the company was built.

Offering greater flexibility with it’s well known auction-based pricing and introducing TV advertisers to the web’s unprecedented level of targeting, the new service certainly shows strong potential.

In other news - it seems Google’s Video Search has fallen to fifth (read: last) place behind YouTube, MySpace, Yahoo, and MSN.

Hmmm… there’s something else… it’s… thinly veiled…

…Wait! - I see it now:

What if there was a way to blanket the web with links to Google Video search - maybe cool “Powered by Google Video” links - using some kind of massive advertising network?

Wow - that would really pump some life into GV - what could be better than that???

Getting other people to pay you for doing it.

Ah, Google…

Google Envy? You Bet. 2006/05/19

Phill Wainewright’s post on ZDNet about Microsoft going after Google’s ad business definately makes some interesting points.

I just happen to disagree with all of them.

According to Wainewright, while Microsoft seems to be chasing Google in the ad space, both companies have been ignoring better opportunities to go up against Amazon and Ebay which operate in much larger trading markets. He goes on to cite many sources predicting that the estimated 500 billion dollar online advertising market may begin to shrink as it matures - some putting it as low as 150 billion.

Well, let’s examine that first - so as internet traffic increases, ads become more targeted, and therefore ROI on these ads increases - the total market is going to decrease? Why?

That’s completely backwards thinking - if a corporation sees a larger ROI on its ad budget - they’ll be willing to spend more on advertising, not less - show me the evidence to refute that.

He’s also completely ignoring new markets like mobile, location-driven ads, TV on the web (and internet enabled TV) and those implications. These aren’t part of a 1:1 transfer from old media - these are totally new markets. Not to mention that the only explanation for the size of Google’s revenues without an equal decline in old media advertising is the the long tail - and it’s long enough to make the online ad space far larger than old media ever was.

That said, his other basic notion is sound, I guess - the online trading/retail market is huge. Sure, (corporate identity, focus, and strategy aside) there’s no reason Microsoft couldn’t launch a service to rival Ebay - anybody could. Google even flirted with the idea of taking on Amazon with Book Search for awhile (and wisely decided against it), but all of that is missing the point.

The reason MS is chasing Google like crazy in search and advertising, is because they have to. They realize that software-as-a-product is out and ad-supported software-as-a-service is in. They need to build an ad network to rival Google’s, before Google builds a free browser, office suite, and maybe even an OS to rival Windows.

Still think they’re wasting their time?

Google faces lawsuits over Book Search 2006/05/18

Old news really - but the fact that Google is forging ahead with it’s full text scans at several major university libraries despite the suits filed against it - has added fuel to the fire on both sides.

Read more about this in the Washington Post.

Basically, no one can really deny, even publishers, that making the full text of ink and paper books available and searchable online would benefit readers - what is in debate is how publishers, authors, and online providers such a Google, Amazon, and others should share in the profits and what this eventually spells for the future of the entire publishing industry.

The answer, at least at first glance, seems obvious: As predicted ever since the dawn of the net - tree huggers everywhere will rejoice, and books will finally come to inherit their pre-destined home on the world wide web. (Drinks all around, amen to that.)

What could prevent this (and certainly stall it for awhile) is another example of the often mind-boggling behavior of established industries when they feel their core business is somehow being threatened on the web.

While I feel like I sort of understand it - it still doesn’t totally add up for me. How can McGraw-Hill and Simon & Schuster (a long time software publisher, no less!) balk at the potential to sell “e-books” online and share in Google’s ad revenues when their contents are searched? Why aren’t they shipping forests of volumes to the Googleplex right now for scanning and hassling Google to get this out of beta and start the money flowing faster?

Well, why did the music industry spend millions to shut down Napster, and then a year later gladly distribute their records online over similar services - even resurrecting Napster itself?!

What was it about TV networks that made it take so long for their executives to figure out that making shows available on the web is just another form of broadcasting? I mean, seriously, since the 1950’s they broadcast - For Free - INTO THE AIR - and they were afraid of the internet???

Well, surprise, I blame Google - and every other web company.

You don’t just start scanning other peoples books - and figure out the profit sharing later. You can’t violate every copywrite law in the world and start giving Metalica’s songs away without so much as a phone call - and you can’t expect NBC to just turn over the keys to the kingdom just because you started up a video search.

Many of these traditional media executives really are scared - some of them justifiably so. The future really is uncertain - and they don’t see opportunity - they see upheaval, even disaster - this puts them on the phone with their lawyers.

It’s up to Yahoo, Google, Amazon and others - companies that live and breathe the web and understand it’s full potential - to explain, educate, and forge partnerships with their old media allies.

Online distribution will benefit all media companies - if anything the market can only grow, boosting revenues and bringing even more players to the table - not ousting established giants.

Media and the web were made for each other - it’s a win-win - but before audiences can benefit, online companies need to learn to play by the rules.

Gates and Ortellini Defend the PC 2006/05/16

Monday’s WSJ featured an editorial by Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Intel CEO Paul Ortellini laying out their case against some recent predictions (specifically in WSJ marketplace articles) that the dominance of the PC may be declining. As WSJ columnists (and others) have observed, there’s a lot to support the notion that the PC (as we know it), and component business model that has driven its success all these years, may yet succumb to the top down model (championed by Apple) as consumers turn to more advanced portable devices to accomplish routine tasks, previously reserved for the PC. Read more about their comments from

The editorial itself was nonsense - words like “Peripheral Devices” besides sounding more dated than ever, ring almost like racial slurs when applied to the iPod and BlackBerry - and the notion of the PC as the digital hub for all these gadgets making our lives better, the same line Microsoft has been spouting for ten years now, seemed more hollow than ever. By asking where people turn when they want to download music to their iPod or upload pictures from their digital camera to Flickr (to their PC of course!) - Gates and Ortellini completely missed the point.

What about when the next generation of these devices are WiFi enabled - iPod can talk to iTunes directly - your digital camera comes pre-loaded with Flickr software eliminating the need for bulky storage and allowing you to browse your photo album on your TV? How about when you use your Nokia 770 to access not only Google Talk but GMail and the entire Google Office Suite - the only thing missing from that picture right now is a spread sheet companion for Writely.

But remember this - Bill Gates didn’t become the world’s richest man by falling off a log - this is the man who predicted SAS and almost every other aspect of the two revolutions we’re talking about years ago - the only problem is he underestimated two things: the pace of the shifts - and the importance of search in building an advertising platform. Office Live will be free - but only after MS builds the ad network to support it. And when you find yourself in second or third place - not a position Gates has found himself in very often - stalling can actually become a pretty sound strategy element.

As for Intel, the business of taking Moore’s Law to the bank - a model that, true or not, never took demand into account, could become increasingly difficult. In the old days, doubling your processor speed often meant doubling your productivity, as even the most basic applications could be painfully slow. These days, probably the number one motivation to upgrade comes from the need to keep up with demanding 3D games. As gamers migrate to consoles, and office applications slim down and move on to the web and portable devices - demand for the latest Pentium powered desktop PC could degenerate pretty rapidly. The Apple deal, X-Box, and other contracts, however, are good indications of Intel’s resolve to weather the shift.

In the meantime, can you blame either man for wanting to keep their empire building engine running - just a little bit longer?

SkypeOut - Free calls to phones until 2007 2006/05/15

The popular VOIP software Skype plans to offer free calling to phones, a feature normally reserved for its paid subscribers, anywhere in North America until the end of this year. This is certainly going to be a huge draw for users, as it is generally regarded as Skype’s most attractive feature (notably lacking in competitive products, such as Google Talk) and as ZDNet’s Russell Shaw jokes - What’s next? - Paying callers to use it? As competition heats up in the VOIP field, Google seems to be lagging behind. Despite securing a high profile contract with Nokia on its new 770 Internet Tablet, it has yet to announce plans to offer either calling to phones, or video conferencing - both long standing Skype features - to its VOIP offering. And honestly, what good is the Nokia 770 going to be if it can only call other Googlers?

MS vs. Google - Get Your Ticktets Now! 2006/05/14

The Observer has a brilliant piece today on how the two giants stack up against one another.

There will be no surprises for readers of this blog, or various other online sources - but it’s an exciting shift to see this battle move into the mainstream media.

Google Press Day, Brin and then Balmer’s comments, and the upcoming release of Vista are likely explanations for the added attention.

Google Music? 2006/05/14

I’ve been slacking on the posts lately - and amid a flurry of Google activity - expect to see this remedied very soon.

Before I delve into press day, all of the other speculation, and my general disappointment (yeah, you heard me) with Google as of late - I just wanted to throw this up for discussion purposes.

So, Google Music? Garrett Rogers' mysterious Muze (an anonymous source) says yes.

Actually, if it’s true (and whether or not Muze is a Google employee, I’d say the iTunes dominated music market is pretty hard to ignore - even for Google) this would be the first example of an actually exciting offering from the Googleplex in quite a while.

“Me-Too” or not, some “information” that nearly everyone seems to want to organize and access is their favorite songs, music videos, and TV shows (growing even faster than expected) - Google Video and Music (or Tunes or whatever it is) better sign some more deals and beef up their content (Brady Bunch and ST:Voyager for $1.99?) - maybe even buy an ad or two (wouldn’t that be something?) - or risk being churned up in Apple’s wake.

If I was Google, I’d even consider teaming up with the now struggling Napster - when I think Google, “Geeks” comes to mind long before “Tunes” - Google could benefit from whatever street cred the Napster brand still carries.

As for Napster, the only thing that might be even more ubiquitous than the iPod is the Google search page - if Napster can’t sell songs there, well…

Correction… 2006/05/07

Well, it seems my last post was mostly inaccurate - the results GoogleOS had discovered are actually a part of the upcoming Google Health as and others are now reporting (although any links to preview the service seem now to be non-functional).

Disappointing - in two ways, actually. Most were hoping Google Health would be a little more robust - and personally I still think Google needs to offer some query refinement options in the general web search. Much is already in place - from maps to word definitions, simple math, and now health - but a broader “Semantic Web” is still very much in need.

Google Semantic Web 2006/05/06

Google Operating System (a Google watch-blog) is reporting on Google’s recent testing of some word categories and other methods of prompting users to refine their search terms as part of their effort to build something called Google Semantic Web.

Try it out here.

This is something I’ve been looking for out of Google for quite a while now, so I’m glad to see they’re beginning to experiment with it more publicly.

If you ask an average Google search user, their biggest complaint isn’t that they can’t find what they’re looking for on Google - it’s that in order to do so, they often have to rephrase their query several times before the results they were looking for make their way to the top of the list -

In other words, the traditional “search problem” has been reversed.

It is no longer Google’s ability to index the web that is limiting the relevance of the search results - it’s the inherent quality (or lack thereof) of the user’s query.

The problem for Google (and any other search company) is that even if their AI is the best in the world - if Google’s search box was just as intuitive as another human being - even then, could it ever return exactly what the user had in mind with only vague, one word queries to go on?

I’d say not. Google’s search box could benefit from improved semantics, certainly, but only in order to interpret complete queries more like a human might. Despite what GoogleOS hints at, no amount of complex algorithms are actually going to enable Google to flat out read your mind.

Some gentle prompting for the user to refine their query is a fairly elegant solution, in my opinion.

It’s not as good as a Star Trek style conversational voice interface might be someday down the line, but certainly a step in the right direction, eh?

Google’s New Look? 2006/05/06

A California Beginning has a screenshot of a new format for the main Google search page that apparently randomly presents itself to certain users to generate some sort of feedback.

While obviously, they will eventually need to do something in order to accomodate the growing number of features available - personally, I would miss the simplicity of the old look.

I think a much better idea than a side bar - would be to just pre-empt the default web search option with a “Google” (as in the verb) option that would display a mix of results from all of the available options - sort of a query summary, that would also go a long way toward educating users about the other search options available to them - later it could include results from Google Blog Search results as well.