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simon collis

musings of an omnivorous biped

Dishonesty, Dishonestly

Posted by simon on 2013/06/12
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It’s funny how all the disclosures about the NSA’s PRISM spying programme have mentioned specific things that companies don’t do, such as handing user content over to the US Government, but don’t mention what they were accused of: sending communications metadata in bulk. Read the disclaimers: Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Facebook… they all say much the same thing.

Of course, it’s easy to deny something you’ve never been accused of in the first place. But also failing to deny the thing you were accused of – that looks suspicious.

Another reason to be more careful online. Personally, I use StartPage as my search engine because IxQuick that runs it is based in the EU, not subject to US law and doesn’t provide information to the US government.

Now it looks like more reasons to use other systems too.

How long will cloud services from Microsoft and others survive? I’m sure EU governments are already considering a move, and it’s likely they’ll impose the same standards on their providers. It’s not enough to close these services, but it doesn’t help.

These disclaimers though… thou canst not equivocate to heaven.

PS: apologies to My First Tooth for blatantly misquoting one of their song titles. I couldn’t find it on YouTube either, so here’s the video for “Past Broadcasts“:

There’s been an awful lot of rumours about Intel and takeovers recently. One, that Intel is about to buy (or merge) with AMD. Another, that Apple might be about to buy Intel. Well, there aren’t that many companies that have the financial clout to buy Intel, but there are a few that might want to buy them. Here’s what I think.

  • Apple
    A takeover of Intel by Apple would make perfect sense for Apple, if not Intel. In fact, I’d say it ought to be right at the top of Tim Cook’s “To Do” list.Apple have recently started designing their own ARM chips for iPads and iPhones. It would make sense to buy Intel, decommission some of the products and turn their fabs over to making their own chips – which they’ve been designing themselves for a few years now. It means not having to deal with pesky outside suppliers like Samsung, with whom they have a bit of a history.

    It would prove disruptive in the external market too – they could easily drop the mobile chips for external suppliers, which although it would pass the market over to AMD for Windows laptops, and effectively kill the Surface Pro, it would have a strategically far more important result – ending Intel’s push for Android. And more traction for Android is something Apple can’t really allow to happen.

  • Oracle
    Oracle earn bucketloads of cash, and already own the SPARC architecture through Sun – a hardware business they’ve been growing. Owning Intel would give them a way into the x86 server market, either with Solaris on x86 or their own version of Linux. It would also essentially give Oracle a very hefty slice of the “Windows tax”, as they would now be providing the chips for probably 80% of the Windows market. It would give them access directly to Intel’s design department, with the inevitable consequence that Intel could produce a line of processors “optimised for Java”.If Oracle really wanted to play hardball, of course, it wouldn’t then be out of the way to suggest to Microsoft that if they want that ready supply of Intel chips to continue, they might want to consider discontinuing that pesky “SQL Server” product with immediate effect – whether that’s legal or not, I’ll let the lawyers fight over, but I can imagine it causing Larry Ellison to purr with delight; it is, after all, pretty much the same sort of squeeze Microsoft put on OS/2 back in the day.
  • Microsoft
    Legally speaking, this one would probably be the most difficult to achieve. I can imagine the DoJ would have something to say, and AMD would be right there, knocking on the door.Nevertheless, Intel’s recent announcement of upcoming Android notebooks must be alarming Redmond, and I can imagine that being pretty high up on Microsoft’s list of “things we really don’t want to happen”.
  • Google
    This one is quite the maverick on this list, but let’s think a moment.Google got into the hardware market by buying Motorola – mainly as a hedge to get Microsoft off Android’s back. That didn’t work. Owning Intel would pull the rug out from Microsoft, and essentially reverse the balance of power between the two companies, forever. Google would be able to dictate terms, and Microsoft could do little more than acquiesce meekly, knowing that Google essentially controlled enough patents, and enough of the market structure, to play enough hardball to strangle Microsoft’s businesses at any second. Certainly, the “Android tax” would stop overnight – it would have to, if Microsoft wanted to continue to work with the makers of Android – who would now be the largest supplier of the chips on which the vast majority of their software runs. Their only route out would be to push Windows entirely to an ARM-based infrastructure – something that’s not working very well right now.

As John-Louis Gassee pointed out, Intel are weak right now. They’re ripe to be taken over. For Apple or Google, Intel would represent the prize: control of the industry.

If Intel survives as a separate entity by the end of the year, I’ll be extremely surprised.

And once they’re gone, who’ll buy AMD?

Google Android is the worldwide leading smartphone OS in terms of shipments. I don’t think anyone would dispute that. iOS is the leading smartphone OS in terms of developer revenue, and I don’t think anyone would dispute that either. That Apple hates Android and would like to kill it – well, that may have been true under Steve Jobs.

But things are changing – Apple are introducing 4G, and beefing up Siri. Voice recognition and voice search are areas where Google do have quite a big patent portfolio, and both Google (through Motorola) and Samsung have 4G patents. So this could run and run.

The problem is, as has been pointed out in a few news sources, the Apple v Samsung trial hasn’t really hurt Samsung’s image, whereas even the Apple faithful are turning on Apple over this one.

If they keep hitting out at each other, there can only be one winner – Microsoft. Read more

The results are in, and it’s a massive win for Apple against Samsung. At least, for now.

First off, there will be appeals, of course – there always are. It’s highly unlikely Apple will see the full damages – and they’ve annoyed a major supplier into the bargain.

But before Apple fans get too excited, this little tiff could have some serious downsides for Apple. Read more

All Surface, No Feeling?

Posted by simon on 2012/07/16
Posted in NewsTechnology  | Tagged With: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Microsoft just took a huge gamble. A mega big one. And I’m not sure if they’ve already lost.

Let me start with the background. A few months ago, they announced Microsoft Surface, a shiny Lumia blue tablet thing (apparently it’s hit production problems already – who’dathunkit?)

Today, they announced that Windows on ARM – you know, WinRT – would “include” Microsoft Office. What does “include” mean? Is it included in the price, is it ad supported, like Office 2010 Starter? Or will it require an Office 365 subscription in order to use it? Read more

On Search Engines

Posted by simon on 2012/01/12
Posted in Comment  | Tagged With: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The search engine,when you think about it, is a pretty magical thing. Really, they are essentially full text searches of ultra-massive databases, serving mind-boggling numbers of queries every second.

And there are hundreds of them.

Google, of course, is the Big Daddy of them all, with 60% of the market. The impressively poorly named Bing has apparently overtaken Yahoo! for second place now. Which is a bit like a Honda Civic entering the Le Mans 24 hour and making its way up to second, simply because the competition keep running out of fuel. (Although the comparison feels a little unkind to Honda).

To be honest, Google’s recent integration of Google+ into its search doesn’t bother me. I don’t trust Google’s results, and haven’t for several years. For searching MSDN, for example, it does a very good job. And their record of reporting takedown notices to Chilling Effects is an excellent one.

The only problem is that Google is too intelligent a tool. When it comes to web search, I don’t really want to live in a bubble, surrounded by the familiar, mainly because I already have nearly all of the familiar bookmarked and backed up to Firefox Sync. What I do need is a search engine that doesn’t really care what I am looking for or why, and will just interpret the query the way I want it.

Of course, I remember way back in 1996, when WebCrawler was the big noise, and got unseated by the mighty Digital Equipment Corporation’s shiny new AltaVista (now, sadly, a Yahoo! front end, but I won’t go into the history of AltaVista right now). Lycos is still going, and for years I was a huge fan of Dogpile, but at the moment, my default search provider has become one that I’ve always – until recently – scorned:-

Ask Jeeves

Don’t laugh. It doesn’t have the reach of either Google or Bing, but that’s to my advantage – it has much less spam, better results, and I don’t have to think my way around Google’s algorithms to get the search results I actually want. With Google I frequently have to make two searches to find what I want – whereas with Jeeves it’s usually on the first page. (As an aside, I think Google’s integration of Google+ is great news… for Bing. It’ll erode the quality of Google’s results like nobody’s business.)

So… what the hell? Am I still living in 1996? Or am I just fed up with the “clever clever” search algorithms that actually just make Google and its ilk more and more distracting and irrelevant?

Why I deleted my Google+ account

Posted by simon on 2011/10/31
Posted in Comment  | Tagged With: , | No Comments yet, please leave one

I’ve been on Google+ since before it went public. Originally, I was interested by the prospect of Google+ – maybe it was even a “Facebook killer”. But the truth is, I haven’t used it. At all. I haven’t posted anything on Google+ in a long time. Two things, in total, probably. But that is about it.

Now, Google are pushing everything to Google+, and I understand that. But as part of doing that, they broke Google Reader. Read more