Writing Blog

February 23, 2008

And the Winner is … Google

Filed under: Internet,Software — Rafael Minuesa @ 12:55 AM
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
This is one of a series of articles I posted for the 1001webs’ blog.
You can view the original version at:
* http://1001webs.blogspot.com/2008/02/and-winner-is-google.html

On Feb 1 Microsoft offered to buy Yahoo! for $31 per share, a deal that was valued at $44.6 billion, in an attempt to acquire assets that would allow MSN to become a real competitor to Google’s supremacy on the Internet.

Microsoft justified its interest in acquiring Yahoo! explaining that:

“The industry will be well served by having more than one strong player, offering more value and real choice to advertisers, publishers and consumers.”

Yahoo! would certainly add some very valuable assets to Microsoft’s Internet Division, such as an audience of more than 500 million people per month in sites devoted to news, finance and sports, or Yahoo Mail (the most widely used consumer e-mail service on the Internet) or web banner ads used by corporate brand advertisers.
Although the price was a 62% premium above the closing price of Yahoo! common stock of $19.18 on January 31, 2008, it was only about a quarter of what Yahoo was worth in 2000, and the company’s board finally rejected the offer two weeks ago because they felt they were being undervalued at $31 a share. Or at least that’s what they said.

At a conference at the Interactive Advertising Bureau on Monday, Yahoo chief executive Jerry Yang had the chance to provide their own version of the story.
Yang broke the ice with a “Before you start, let me guess what your first question is. Does it start with an M and end with a T?”
However he did not elaborate much further:

“Everyone has read what we are doing, so there is not much to report. We’re taking the proposal that Microsoft has given to us seriously. It’s been a galvanizing event for everyone at Yahoo. Our board is spending a lot of time thinking about all the alternatives. It’s something that we need to think through carefully.”

But Microsoft is not be put off so easily and has recently hired a proxy firm to try to oust Yahoo’s board.
Last Friday, Microsoft released an internal memo from Kevin Johnson, President of Microsoft’s Platforms & Services Division, where he actually sees the deal going through:

“While Yahoo! has issued a press release rejecting our proposal, we continue to believe we have a full and fair proposal on the table. We look forward to a constructive dialogue with Yahoo!’s Board, management, shareholders, and employees on the value of this combination and its strategic and financial merits.
If and when Yahoo! agrees to proceed with the proposed transaction, we will go through the process to receive regulatory approval, and expect that this transaction will close in the 2nd half of calendar year 2008. Until this proposal is accepted and receives regulatory approval, we must continue to operate our business as we do today and compete in this rapidly changing online services and advertising marketplace.
It is important to note that once Yahoo! and Microsoft agree on a transaction, we can begin the integration planning process in parallel with the regulatory review. We can create the integration plan but we cannot begin to implement it until we have formal regulatory approval and have closed the transaction. Because the integration process will be critical to our success as a combined company, we are taking this very seriously. “

On the other hand, Google is not standing idle among other obvious reasons because it owes one to Microsoft from when the latter interfered with Google’s purchase of DoubleClick last year.
Google’s chief legal officer, David Drummond, wrote in the The Official Google Blog:

“Microsoft’s hostile bid for Yahoo! raises troubling questions. This is about more than simply a financial transaction, one company taking over another. It’s about preserving the underlying principles of the Internet: openness and innovation.
Could Microsoft now attempt to exert the same sort of inappropriate and illegal influence over the Internet that it did with the PC? While the Internet rewards competitive innovation, Microsoft has frequently sought to establish proprietary monopolies — and then leverage its dominance into new, adjacent markets.
Could the acquisition of Yahoo! allow Microsoft — despite its legacy of serious legal and regulatory offenses — to extend unfair practices from browsers and operating systems to the Internet? In addition, Microsoft plus Yahoo! equals an overwhelming share of instant messaging and web email accounts. And between them, the two companies operate the two most heavily trafficked portals on the Internet. Could a combination of the two take advantage of a PC software monopoly to unfairly limit the ability of consumers to freely access competitors’ email, IM, and web-based services? Policymakers around the world need to ask these questions — and consumers deserve satisfying answers.”

In any case, it remains unclear how the situation will develop and where it will lead to. Google probably can’t stop the deal, but it can delay it considerably, and the delay will certainly act in Google’s interests.

“In the interim, we foresee disarray at Microsoft and Yahoo, We believe the deal has distracted the engineers and should benefit Google over the next 18 to 24 months, providing with a major opportunity to advance in branded advertising.”

as foreseen by analyst Marianne Wolk of Susquehanna Financial Group.
According to Wolk,

“If instead Microsoft is forced to acquire Yahoo via a proxy fight, it would mean a more protracted closing process, then the transaction will not close until early 2009, when it would begin the complex integration of Yahoo’s 14,300 employees, multiple advertising platforms, technology infrastructures, content sites, culture, etc.
Google may not face a more competitive Microsoft-Yahoo until 2010.”

By then, she said, Google could “extend its lead in search monetization” and grab a “major lead in emerging growth areas, such as video advertising, mobile and local advertising.”
Wolk also pointed out that Google would likely find it easier to hire top engineers from Microsoft and Yahoo “as they fear for their jobs in a consolidation.”

My personal bet is that even if the deal goes ahead and Microsoft pours in huge loads of money and resources, it won’t work.
And it won’t because Microsoft will try to apply the same tactics that it has applied to gain dominance over the PC market, i.e. trying to force every user to use their software.

The Internet is totally different. You can’t force people to use your staff. You have to convince them to use it. And in order to do that you have to provide a superior product. Neither MSN nor Yahoo! come even closer to what Google delivers in terms of search results and applications designed for the web.

Much needs to be improved in both MSN and Yahoo! in order to be able to compete with Google.
In the case of Yahoo is a technical issue. I have recently switched from Google to Yahoo’s search engine just to see how accurate the results were and I had to switch back because the difference with Google’s is abysmal, both in accuracy and quality of results.
I kind of feel sorry for Yahoo! because I’ve been a long time user of their services and I can see it going down the gutter, no matter what the final result of the acquisition will be. They have some top-quality services such as Yahoo! Mail or Yahoo! Finance and in many countries in Asia Yahoo! is a real competitor to Google, but they need to innovate so much that I doubt they will ever revert the downward trend.
They are moving in the right direction now with Web 2.0, but I’m afraid that it might be too late.
They have recently announced that they are opening up their Search to third party so that everybody can collaborate in building their search results:

“This open search platform enables 3rd parties to build and present the next generation of search results. There are a number of layers and capabilities that we have built into the platform, but our intent is clear — present users with richer, more useful search results so that they can complete their tasks more efficiently and get from “to do” to “done.”

Because the platform is open it gives all Web site owners — big or small — an opportunity to present more useful information on the Yahoo! Search page as compared to what is presented on other search engines. Site owners will be able to provide all types of additional information about their site directly to Yahoo! Search. So instead of a simple title, abstract and URL, for the first time users will see rich results that incorporate the massive amount of data buried in
websites — ratings and reviews, images, deep links, and all kinds of other useful data — directly on the Yahoo! Search results page.

We believe that combining a free, open platform with structured, semantic content from across the Web is a clear win for all parties involved — site owners, Yahoo! and most importantly, our users.”

Let’s wait and see.
You can see the details at the following links:

And MSN simply doesn’t get it. They’re trying to apply the same centralized tactics that made them so successful in the PC market, but it is evident that they won’t work on the Internet.

By combining both companies you’ll only get a much more cumbersome monster and the Internet is about just the opposite, decentralization and agility.

Many people attribute the initial success of Google to the quality of the search results. That is true today but it wasn’t so in the beginning, when they started to draw users from other search engines. The main reason why most of the people made Google their home page is because it was simple. No advertising or fancy graphics, just a search box and a menu where the rest of services are listed as text links on a page that loads very fast.

By trying to push users into using your services and bloating your front page with advertising, you are actually driving them away.
To be fair Yahoo! does have a version of their home page that is designed that way:
Had they made it to be their front page many years ago, they’d still be game.

Screenshot of Yahoo front pageAnother feature that convinced me to switch to Google many years ago was that they give you the opportunity to try your search terms on different search engines with just one click, with the:
“Try your search on Yahoo, Ask, AllTheWeb, Live, Lycos, Technorati, Feedster, Wikipedia, Bloglines, Altavista, A9″
that used to appear on every search results page.
Same functionality can be achieved nowadays by installing CustomizeGoogle, a highly recommended Firefox extension that enhances Google search results by adding extra information (like the above mentioned links to Yahoo, Ask.com, MSN, etc.) with the added plus of enabling you to remove unwanted information (like ads and spam).

CustomizeGoogle 2 min introduction movie

By creating an extremely simple entrance to an environment open to everybody, including their most direct competitors, they have succeeded in being the most popular home page on the Internet.
The KISS approach (“Keep It Simple, Stupid”) is what they used.
Keep It Simple. And Open. Stupid.

  • Occam’s razor: “entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity”
  • Albert Einstein: “everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler”
  • Leonardo Da Vinci: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”
  • Antoine de Saint Exupéry: “It seems that perfection is reached not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away”

November 14, 2005

The Curse of the Amiga

This article was first posted by my alter-ego laparanoia at the magiKomputer‘s Blog.
You can view the original version at:
* http://magikomputer.blogspot.com/2005/11/curse-of-amiga.html

Amiga Survivor DrawingIs the Amiga Dead, Yet?
Not Yet.

Is it cursed?
No doubt.

Even me, as I was writing this post, had Firefox crashed for the first time ever and lost about an hour’s work. Previously I had tried to post from Elicit and Zoundry with similar results. In more than 3 years blogging I had NEVER experienced anything even remotely similar. When I restarted, my right button search function had vanished, and all those circumstances put together have made this post the one that has taken more effort to create by far. But, you see, I am an obstinate bastard, specially when it comes to something I’ve spent so many years working and playing with (or was rather the other way around) and that is so close to my heart as the Amiga.

I have been a fanatic user of the Amiga from 1991 until the turn of the millennium, and I still think it was the best machine mankind has ever created. What has happened to this computer is a real techno-tragedy and I am sure it has altered the course of History, and not for the Good.

I haven’t tried the latest hardware and software, but here is an excellent review of Jeremy Reimer, who bought an AmigaOne Micro with OS4 on November 2004:

The Micro-AmigaOne and Amiga OS4 Developer Prerelease
Jay Miner started the Amiga Inc. computer company in 1982 before Commodore bought them out.
The Amiga computer was first commercialized released in 1985 by Commodore, that eventually went bankrupt in April 1994.
Commodore was bought at liquidation by Escom AG, who had no real interest in the Amiga. Escom itself went bankrupt a few years later, and the Amiga was briefly bought out by set-top manufacturer VISCorp, before they too filed for liquidation.
Its new owner was Gateway Computers, who were only interested in Commodore’s old patent portfolio. When it became increasingly clear that Gateway was never going to do anything with the Amiga, a consortium of investors calling themselves Amino Development bought out the rights to the Amiga hardware and OS in 1999.
The new AmigaOne motherboards were first released in 2002, but there was no OS to go with them, so they shipped with Debian PPC Linux. After an agonizing 18-month wait, the first Developer Prerelease CD of OS4 was shipped to AmigaOne owners worldwide.

AmigaOne OS4
OS4 boots remarkably quickly. From a cold boot, including waiting for power up, BIOS messages, straight to a usable desktop took slightly over 30 seconds. A “warm boot,” which bypasses the BIOS start-up and merely reloads the operating system, takes slightly over 10 seconds.

One feature of the original custom Amiga graphics chips was that you could “pull” down screens with the mouse to see screens that were behind them. This feature, called “draggable screens,” was never duplicated by any graphics card manufacturer since, so sadly it is not available on the AmigaOne.

A cold boot, including power up, BIOS messages, takes less than what it takes you to get accommodated in your chair. Compare that to any Windows/Mac OS start-up. They usually give me enough time to go and make coffee (Mac OSX is not that sluggish, to be honest).
I am sorry to hear that there is no “draggable screens“.
Another cool feature was the ability of clicking on several menu items at once (holding right-side button and clicking with the left), and get the commands batch-processed at once.

Many people, upon reading the hardware specs of the Micro Amiga One, will feel that the performance (800MHz PowerPC 750FX, SDR RAM) is far below modern gear. This is true to a certain extent, but it does not give the whole picture. AmigaOS was originally written for a 7.14 MHz 68000, and the last Classic version released by Commodore, 3.1, was optimized for a 12 MHz 68020 platform. According to Hyperion, over 90% of the OS code has been converted from 68k to PPC, and the only code yet to be translated (serial port code, AREXX macro routines), does not typically impact on performance.
Because the OS is so small (About 60MB on disk for a complete install), it fits very nicely in 256MB of RAM, with room for several applications, most of which have a similarly small memory footprint. This means that you can run the OS and multitask between several applications without ever swapping to the disk.

I have created and run multimedia presentations for TV stations on as little as an Amiga 500, 1Mb RAM, 720 Kb floppy, no Hard Drive. Gosh, I miss Scala so much…

In speeches around the world, Alan Redhouse of Eyetech always opens by saying that everyone always asks them: “Why are you doing this?” And the answer he gives, with a smile, is “We don’t know!” There is an infectious enthusiasm among Amiga users…

Infectious enthusiasm defines the feeling of Amiga users at that time.
As of today, if you visit Amiga’s Headquarters (http://www.amiga.com/) you’ll be presented with the latest technology in … Jackpots!!!?
It has broken my heart.

Better visit this one: http://www.amiga.org/

Is there a future for the Amiga?
Some people seem to think so:


Jeremy Reimer has a website full of undiscovered gems at:
where among other things he promotes StudlyOS, as the Only Operating System You Will Ever Need.
I wish I had the time to try it out.
I liked the Amigan comment on it, though:

“StudlyOS sucks!!!1111 Y00 think itz c00l but your rong!!!!!11111 I Cant run it on my Am1ga so what yoos is it????/ My Am1ga beats yor peecee anyday!!!!!! !!!11111111 Peecee even with StudlyOS cant beet Amiga because Amiga rules!!!! Amiga iz better because it is Amiga!!!1111 Nothing else is Amiga!!!11111” – B1FF

The Amiga Boing Ball is a mythical object in the computer industry. It was created as an example of the machines ability. The demo showed a red and white ball bouncing around the screen and interacting with the environment- it bounced off the walls, spun, while multitasking in the background.

That demo displaying smooth animation in full colorwhen other computers were only just managing color display, helped sell over a million Amigas at a time when a computer was a synonym of science fiction.

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