Yet another "Microsoft acquires Powerset" blog

PowerSet and MSFT finally announced this rumored acquisition. MSFT has acquired Powerset for close to $100 million. Powerset is a semantic search engine that extends the XEROX-PARC’s licensed linguistic technology. I have tried Powerset when it was a beta and when it got (almost abruptly) released (with search limited to wikipedia and freebase).

The use of semantic technologies for horizontol search engines look highly improbable. The nature of the web is too diverse to be nailed by a single hammer. A related article on making search relevance more meaningful is in this earlier post.

MSFT plans to integrate the Powerset team with its search relevance team and explore advanced search capabilities while taking the Powerset technology beyond wikipedia. MSFT has been creating noise around enterprise and local search, both of which are vertical in nature. This acquisition can add value in making vertical search offerings from smarter and probably scaring the Mountain View behemoth. Whether MSFT takes Powerset’s saplings and nurtures it into its Redmond forests – this only time will tell.

On a related note, I find results from Hakia more useful. Try a sample search for “is EPS the right measure for stock performance” on both powerset and hakia and you will see the difference. Hakia gives results much more relevant to EPS – at least it displays on the very first page results about the use of EPS measure for measuring stock performance. Powerset returned results that had nothing to do with “EPS ~ Earnings per share”. The results from Powerset were purely keyword matches – it mostly matched Extended Play (EP) vinyl records.

In general, most semantic searches seem to be working better on Hakia than on Powerset. I am surprised why Hakia was not approached by suitors if the motivation has been to ramp up semantic abilities for search engines. Or may be it was!

Tata Nano features in the Top 10 Tech Cars

The IEEE Spectrum in its April 2008 issue featured the ‘Top 10 Tech Cars’. This included the recent eye candy of India’s common man – Tata Nano. With Tata Motors planning to go full production in later 2008, this small car revolution is obviously creating excitement.

There are concerns about environmental hazards because of easy affordability of the vehicle due to its low cost. I wonder how much of that is a concern because the low cost would also mean easy replacement of the over-polluting Auto-rickshaw in the country and a much better comfort for local city travel. It is interesting to note that a petrol-driven three wheeler costs around Rs. 90,000, which is Rs.10-15K less than the Nano. With double the top-speed than an auto-rickshaw the Nano would also mean faster travel and lesser traffic congestion. The better speed probably over-compensating for the more space it would take on roads.

As an optimist, I look forward to see Nano hit the roads and replacing the more polluting vehicles on the Indian roads. In the process this also creates a better life for the common man.

I for Implementation!

IBM’s commercials always have an “interest quotient”. The recent Innovation-Man commercial where our I-Man completely forgets about the “I for Implementation” is funny but close to reality. A product development (the sequence can vary based on the product type) goes through the following phases: 1. Market Research/Ideation, 2. Design and Research, 3. Implementation/Execution, 4. Reach-to-market/Sales.

Each step in this process is equally important and often the execution or implementation of ideas is what makes all the difference. This is a common phenomena in software-based products where poor execution screws up a great idea. As Scott Rosenberg aptly describes in his book “Dreaming in Code” – Software is hard; ….it is not like building ships….

The art of meticulous planning for better execution is what distinguishes a great product from a ‘yet-another’ product. Having said that, a key aspect of this execution phase is to be ready to take the outlier road blocks head-on and resolve them with an eye for detail. The journey ‘almost’ never is as you have planned. We often miss the bus on the route and have to rush before it is too late to reach the destination.Implementation is easier said than done – probably that is why we often call this an art!

What is Microsoft upto?

This sure is a no-brainer. It is gearing up for a whole new battle of market share on the Web – Ad Revenues, et al. Mr. Gates announced in the World Economic Forum at Davos this year that his company is getting ready with some new and exciting products in the WWW services/offerings arena. Interesting was his comment that there is not just one company in this world of “Search”. And why not? The online ad market is projected to grow to $61 billion. You sure have arrived Mr. Gates – though inorganically, but who cares.

Microsoft announced it’s intention to acquire Yahoo! and made an offer of $31/share valuing the company at $44.6 billion. This is after the two companies decided to work together in 2006.

Continue reading