Thursday, January 24, 2013

Microsoft's invests in Dell to cut off Linux?

Update: It's official. Microsoft has a hand in taking Dell private to the tune of 2 billion. Is this a loan like the 'investment' was in Apple?
Dell is considering taking itself private. This is nothing odd, most successful companies with a large cash pile will consider buying back their public shares, taking them private. They would then do business as usual for a time before taking themselves public again, this time at a higher value. If you are interested why, there are some possible reasons why explained at the end.
So while Dell considering taking themselves private is not really interesting to technology watchers, the rumor that Microsoft and Silverlake Partners is reported to be involved in the buy back of those shares and coming in as investors is interesting. So why now? And why Dell? Microsoft has not been successful with hardware (other than their mouse and keyboards). Xbox is a success but it's success comes from games software and subscription services rather than just hardware alone. Case in point, the Microsoft Tablets and the Zune. So the question is what would Microsoft gain from having a say in the running of a PC manufacturer.
This could be another front Microsoft is pursuing against Linux. Dell made it no secret that they were investigating the viability of having Linux as a desktop OS option. The well reviewed Dell XPS 13 Developer Edition or Project Sputnik and regional versions of laptops pre-loaded with Linux are examples of their efforts. The adoption of Linux as a Desktop OS option by a major PC manufacturer would spell big trouble for Microsoft. While Dell has offered several Linux OSes such as RedHat and Ubuntu as options for a server OS, this has not been a real threat to Microsoft. This is because of the use of Linux on servers has a low consumer profile and the fact that Microsoft makes more money on the connection licences on the server than the sale of the server OS itself.
Another interesting twist to this story is the involvement of Silverlake Partners. While many know of their collaboration with Microsoft on the Skype deal, the people behind both companies share a more darker past in relation to Linux. Both are entangled in some way with SCO as it was launching it's legal battle against Linux.
Is there something more to this?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Blogger for Android review: Getting better

Google released a new Blogger for Android and I'm happy to report that it is an improvement over the past version. I blog from everywhere. I used to use the Springpad App to capture the initial ideas before forming them into posts. Then, it would be a cut and paste away from being posted via the Blogger web interface. Then, I switched to the previous version of the Blogger App. I used it at every opportunity I could. Then I hit a bug. I could live with idiosyncrasies of the app but when it became destructive, I ditched it. But before that, I had used almost all of the features it offered, perhaps working it enough to find that bug.
The best new thing about this version is the way it allows you to manage posts. In the past, it used to be in one long list. But now, you can view them separately. You can safely view and edit  drafts and not have to worry about accidentally opening a published post.
I reviewed a more recent version of the Blogger app for Android here.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Is Facebook Graph Search promoting insularity?

While I agree the science of search needs to be further developed, I don't think that Facebook Graph Search is a step in the right direction. Basically, Facebook Graph Search uses information that users have shared previously and then uses them as weights in searches. To generalize, we can search in stuff shared by other people who are connected to us. We can do perspective searches, searches that give results based on your perspective or scope or visibility of other people's Facebook data.
This isn't new. This search feature was previously available to advertisers and used to target ads to Facebook users. Look how successful that was. But that is not the point of this new feature. It's point is to add more data to Facebook. Specifically to find out what is the context or importance the specific shared or related Facebook data. With each search we do, we provide Facebook with more information about us. With each graph search we do, we provide Facebook with more information about that data that we have in common with the people connected to us. This is a mother-load of information for advertisers. They  constantly want to know the things that interest us so that they can lead us to them.
This used to have hilarious outcomes. That one-off search you did for your mother on recommendations for skin rash cream? Facebook associates that search with you. Were you peppered with adverts for hemorrhoid cream and mature relationship/dating sites? Facebook can't be blamed totally because that is all they have on you. They need more data to make your future searches more relevant. Maybe with this new data, Facebook will be able to differentiate on-off searched from searches that you regularly do. Perhaps, Facebook will notice that you haven't searched for skin rash cream in six months and stop sending you hemorrhoid cream adverts. If it was too smart, it would then assume the worse and start sending you adverts on will generation and estate planning. If you decide to stop using Facebook out of disgust, maybe Facebook will take this data, assume the worse and start sending your family members ads for caskets and funeral homes. Ouch.
How about it if Facebook uses the data it gathers from Graph Searches to target the ads for people around you? Will you start seeing messages that begin, "Which one of you guys searched for hemorrhoid cream?"

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