Archive for the ‘Google’ Category

Where is the New New Thing?

Friday, May 2nd, 2008

Tom Forenski points to Jeff Nolan’s “Incremental Is Not Innovation” piece. With more than $1bn invested in various startups — only a handful can be called as breakthrough. Last year, it was twitter.  The last bust cycle produced a slew of collaboration tools based on RSS. In his writeup Jeff talks about the futility of Web 2.0 (the version number exists, thanks to a marketing propaganda!) and me-too culture of startups around it.

However, in a bigger picture, Web 2.0 has created a phenomenon that services can live elsewhere, and so can the data. It has also created a new breed of entrepreneurs who are going to solve a newer set of problems in the continuing evolution of the overall Internet and computing landscape.

In my mind some of the big problems to be solved are:

  • Public Information Overload: Average query on Google produces 100,000+ search results. The popular ones have 100,000+ pages of search results. Why do I need more than 3-5 pages of results?
  • Untargeted advertising: Bulk of the ads are still unrelated. I was searching/looking for a used Aeron chair, today. The best deal is on Craigslist. Why no one is connecting that dot? A person’s intent is very much monetizable and the field is still green
  • Compartmentalized information: If I’m browsing for a movie on Netflix, I cannot see the reviews of that movie from my buddies who are not on Netflix
  • Missing reputation: Is that post/comment about fixing unscruplous hedging of commodities coming from a person working in financial business or a wannabe?
  • Private Information Overload: With 10,000+ digital family photos, I can’t search a thing. In my last job I had 5+ GB of PSTs at the time of quitting. Same goes for my slowly building archive of digital documents, tax returns and stuff

These are very broad level categories of very large problems, each one can be further broken down into features. 

Is Google’s mass exodus a good sign for innovation in Silicon Valley?

Wednesday, March 5th, 2008

Facebook snatched Sheryl Sandberg from Google to hire her as a COO. With the stock price stagnating, a lot of other heavy hitter techies like Gokul Rajaram (Product Manager for AdSense), Justin Rosenstein (GDrive developer), Benjamin Ling (Product Manager, Google Checkout), Nathan Stoll (Product Manager, Google News), and Kevin Fox (GMail UI guru) have left google for other happening pastures in recent months. Some of them were ‘quite rested after vesting in peace’ and exited. A few of them are cash rich and have become investors (Ariel Poler, Chris Sacca, Aydin Senkut, et al).

They are joining brand new startups and/or investing in one. It looks positive as a lot of venture money would follow the Google name.

Google engineers convey world dominance in encoded URL of search experiment

Sunday, December 2nd, 2007

Several blogs are reporting about Google experimenting with Digg-style voting of search results. What I found intriguing is the URL of the experiment. Here it is unhyperlinked:
Look at the last part. It reads “a840e102” which looks like some encoded message where the engineers are trying to convey their world dominance. Here is a screen shot of an analysis of probable meanings. I like the cannabis one :D)

You can read some of them as:

  1. A twice the dose of cannabis produces 100 times better search experience
  2. A unifying-democratizing way of producing a 100 times better search experience. Just like the Tibetan script Phagspa unified the various languages
  3. 840 is one of the smallest composite number with 32 divisors. Shows the technical prowess of one of the algorithms employed in the experiment or maybe just dump of a highly complex issue in maths, just like they used the value of Pi in their IPO


Yahoo, Google after Rediff’s poor customer service: A riff on their customer e-mail

Monday, July 16th, 2007

I was surprised to see a lot of hubub around Rediff. Only 2 days ago, I had my own bout of poor customer experience with Rediff. Have you seen their shopping site? Sucks, big time. The strategy may be good but their execution, quality control and customer service is really poor. I purchased some floral basket to be delivered for a birthday. A dozen roses tied as a bouquet was delivered instead. More than 24 hours has passed and there is no response from customer support.
Look at their e-mail below, the development team does not even bother to test the e-mail, The e-mail is annotated with my riff.
More coverage at:

Microsoft’s desperate acquisition of aQuantive: What they could have done instead

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2007

Are 70,000+ Microsoft employees that useless? Or the 1,000+ Senior Management has no clue? Can’t believe that Microsoft would pay 85% premium and fork out $6bn dollars! They could have bought for that money and saved $500 million to acquire several smart startups in search and online advertising space. Microsoft could have successfully negated Google’s further foray into the growing on-demand business and may have brought raw energy to Redmond.
However, by the time, Microsoft figures out the monetization model for Search and online ad market, Google would start making significant inroads into the on-demand business and productivity applications. Why don’t they focus on solving problems? Well, it’s the big company syndrome; I’m a manager-I don’t solve problems-I get vendors/acquire companies. What a pity.
Does any B-school offer a course on intra-preneurship? Take a leaf from Google or even HP has a lesson to offer from their recent release of the NeoView Business Intelligence product.

Cloud Computing Panel at TiE: Amazon, where are my candies?

Wednesday, April 18th, 2007

I was in the audience for a panel discussion on Cloud Computing hosted by TiE. The panel was moderated by Nimish Gupta of SAP and had people from Amazon WebServices, Google, Opus Capital, and SAP. The interesting thing to watch was how the panel agreed to disagree on the benefits/definition of Cloud Computing. Pavni Diwanji from Google mentioned that it’s the tools on Google Apps and the API which matters to the developers.
Dan Avida, a VC from Opus, seemed to have innate knowledge about EC2 and mentioned that there are interesting opportunities waiting to be tapped for EC2. It may be interesting to look into those areas.
According to Vishal Sikka, CTO of SAP:

Cloud computing is suitable for smaller applications but not for large applications like SAP.

Adam Selipsky who represented Amazon agreed with that statement and said the current shape of Amazon EC2 & S3 is the first cut and is still in limited private beta. He further mentioned that Amazon’s prime focus is on stability of the platform and they haven’t added any major feature on EC2 and S3 in last 12 months.
On a question about competition for EC2, he joked, “There are rumors that the company on my left (referring to Google, as Pavni Diwanji of Google Apps was seated there) is working on something.” He went serious and said that educating developers to jump onto EC2 is the hardest part and he would love to have some competition so that they could spend millions of dollars in educating the customers.
On being asked whether Amazon is just utilizing the over capacity available in their data centers, Adam responded, “Amazon has invested around $2b for Amazon WebServices including EC2 and S3 and are fully committed.”
I took my turn from the audience and mentioned that using S3 as a natively mounted filesytem is a limitation on EC2 and asked about the oft-requested feature to support large databases on EC2. Adam quipped that he does not want to commit on a date but they are working on it. Cool.
On a side note: Adam and his team (couple of his colleagues in the audience) were pitching people to sign-up with their beta program at the venue but did not bring any candies for existing customers like me. Too bad! After the meeting I even sold the idea of using EC2 to a gentleman who was still kicking tires. Where’s my referral fee? 🙂

Web Applications with Portable Data: The next generation of Web applications

Tuesday, November 7th, 2006

Data portability is a big issue. None of us want to get locked down with a particular vendor. All the free web apps like GMail, JotSpot, Writely, et al come with a price — your data is in a proprietary data store. If you are not using pop3 and want to migrate from GMail to some other cool new email application, then there is no easy way out. The vendors rely on the lock-in of this data. For example, Google is offering E-mail services for SMB — what if you grow into a larger enterprise tomorrow and wanna have your own e-mail environment. There is no easy migration. Same goes for other next generation hosted applications like spreadsheets, wikis, office application. For a long time vendors rallied against Microsoft for proprietary formats — Talk about this one!
What’s the solution then? As Fred Wilson mentions:

I think anyone who provides a web app should give users options for where the data gets stored. The default option should always be to store the data on the web app provider’s servers. Most people will choose that option because they don’t care enough about this issue to do anything else.

I think we need a new breed of web applications which have pluggable storage. For example, all you get from a next generation GMail is a presentation and business logic layer. You get an ability to choose your data storage. It should work the way other desktop based applications work — You photo organizing software does not have data store attached to it, all it has a tonnes of logic and uses the file system. You can switch to another application and take care of the business.

Single character email addresses at Google: The new status symbol?

Sunday, January 1st, 2006,, … How cool? I haven’t seen any company giving out such short e-mail address to their employees. It’s nothing less than a prized possession of a 2-character domain name.
Who is getting these e-mail addresses at Google? You have to be an inventor of some programming language or a computer science theorist to get one; Robert Pike has one. (Rob has a famous Unix Programming text book to his credit, one of the computer engineering bibles)
So far, b, c, e, f, g, h, i, j, k and r have been confirmed to be taken; at least, that’s what my puny little investigation has inferred, for others, I’m waiting for my new year greetings to be reciprocated.
How did I get here? Well, I was looking for some UTF-8 conversion routines when I landed onto Ken Thompson‘s page, and somehow got pushed around onto Rob’s page.
Investigative journalism? Not a bad bullet item for new year’s resolution.

Cannibalize your Consumer Software Business before Google cannibalizes it

Wednesday, December 7th, 2005

Google is righteously attacking Microsoft on it’s own turf with ‘Software as a Service’. Today, it’s Desktop Search, Google Base, etc. Tomorrow it’s going to be Excel on the Web, PowerPoint, Word, etc. The “standalone” consumer software esp. productivity applications between the boxed retail price ranges of $100-$300 are a solid target.
Office apps are prone to attack because a normal user of Microsoft Office does not use more than 80% of the features (which furthermore justifies a price-point of $20-$40 per year for all you can eat productivity apps. buffet). It’s a serious challenge for Microsoft. The onslaught is internal vs. external — on one side Google is spreading the “FUD” (a la Microsoft’s yesteryears tactics against ISVs) and on the other the steady stream of Microsoft Office’s revenue which is just shy of $11 billion. A bulk of this money comes from the enterprise licenses and MSDN subscriptions.
The survival strategy for Microsoft should be a combination of one or more of the following:
1. Offer a single user Microsoft Office (Word, PowerPoint, Excel) license for $50 bucks or less.
2. Have a supplanted offline/online version which allows users to install components on demand — it must be easy to segregate the components used by power users and average users.
3. Make the basic Microsoft Office applications an integral part of the Operating System (remember WordPad vs. Notepad?)
4. Have more than just the basic templates for Word, Excel, PowerPoint — Deliver things like spreadsheets which helps small businesses with their finances, taxes and day-to-day accounting (Small business data predominantly lives in Excel). Charge them a small fee for support on using these spreadsheets.
5. Charge money for support and not for software. Remember, smart web-hosting companies won the “commoditization” war by focusing on support and nothing else.
However hard Google or anybody tries (Google just signed a contract with Sun regarding OpenOffice); cracking the Enterprise market would be difficult. Microsoft must keep delivering there. Very few are going to use a free service, however fantastic it might be. E-mail as a free service is a different beast — it’s used for personal stuff. And yeah, nothing needs to be done now — Only if the “FUD” becomes a threatening reality.
Not just MS Office, the same stragey applies to pretty much all the consumer software applications which fall in that range and have an attractive revenue stream.
Happily, I work for none of these two companies!

Google Numbers Trivia as compiled by John Batelle

Thursday, October 27th, 2005
Average revenue per search (any kind of search, not just paid) 12 cents. It was around a dime in late 04
Avg. revenue per searcher $7
Avg. revenue per sponsored click 62 cents
Estimated profits for Google in 06 Roughly $4 billion (Bear Stearns) (which is about the same as their forecasted annual revenues this year)
Revenue growth of Google year to year 96%
Of Yahoo: 42%
Estimated revenue growth for next year for Google (Bear) 61%
For the average of eBay, Yahoo, and Amazon: 29%
Price target for GOOG (Piper) $445
Also: Number of employees added in the past year Nearly 2000
Amount spent on capex, 05 (estimate) $800 million.
Amount MSFT is estimated to spend: $810 million