Xerox Joins the Search Party
Everyone, it seems, is jumping into the search engine business these days.
The latest is Xerox
with something called FactSpotter
, which focuses on semantic searches as
a way to improve Internet research through analyzing the meaning of a question
and a document to match the two for the best possible answer -- sort of part
psychologist, part analytical software.
The woman in charge of parsing and semantics research at Xerox, Frederique
Segond, explains. "Many words can be different things at the same time.
The context makes the difference," she said. "The tricky things here
are not the words together but how are they linked."
For example, a semantic search could help a user who wants to know who Abraham
Lincoln's first vice president was. Typical searches using keywords such as
"Lincoln" and "vice president" often won't render the correct
answer. But asking a question using a semantic search would return the answer:
FactSpotter, about four years in the making, will be released some time next
year through Xerox Global Services as part of Xerox Litigation Services.
IBM's Big Blue 'S'
Earlier this week in New York, IBM showed off to Wall Street managers what
it called the System S, which Big Blue is hoping will take a giant step
toward finally commercializing stream computing.
What is stream computing? It's the attempt to deal with the need for faster
data handling and analysis in both business and science applications, as well
as the fire-hose spew of digital information coming from Web sites, blogs, e-mail,
telephone conversations and even electronic sensors.
IBM's approach incorporates advanced software capable of analyzing data as
it pours in. So, for instance, text-, voice- and image-recognition technology
can be used to sort out what data is more relevant to address a specific problem.
IBM officials said System S is about ready for the marketplace. The first system
based on the technology will operate on about 800 microprocessors, but can be
scaled up to the tens of thousands. There's still work to be done with the system
software that would allow applications to split up tasks -- like image and text
recognition -- and then reassemble those pieces to provide answers.
Microsoft-Open Source Détente Stalls?
With the watershed agreement signed late last year between
Microsoft and Novell that offered open source developers protection from
patent infringement, it looked like the beginning of a new era of cooperation
between Redmond and the open source world. Microsoft followed up its Novell
deal with similar ones involving Xandros
that protected third-party and IT open source developers against potential lawsuits.
We may yet indeed enter this new era of enlightenment, but that era appears
to be stuck at dawn. With Linux distributor Mandriva now saying it
does not wish to enter into a similar deal with Microsoft, there are now
three notable Linux distributors reluctant to sign, including Red Hat and Canonical,
which controls the increasingly popular Ubuntu distribution.
This development, along with Microsoft saying
recently that there are some 235 open source patents that violate its patents,
has put a chilling effect on the détente between Redmond and the open
source world. Microsoft officials have said they don't have the slightest intention
of pursuing legal actions over these alleged violations -- but why bring this
to light and create more of their own special brand of FUD?
It will be very interesting to see what the remaining Linux distributors decide
to do over the next year. Their decisions could well determine whether this
new era ever gets past dawn or slides back into the darkness.
Mailbag: Who Wins the High-Def Battle?
in the wake of Blockbuster's decision to carry
primarily Blu-ray DVDs in its branches, Peter asked readers what they thought
about the high-def battle between Blu-ray and HD-DVD. Here are some of your
Since the PlayStation 3 is still the cheapest Blu-ray player on the market,
and all those kids who grew up playing the PlayStation 1 and 2 games are going
to want to upgrade at some point, I think the Blu-ray should win out. The
copy protection is superior as well, so that makes the studios happy.
In any event, I'm not sure how good my opinion is as I owned a Betamax in
the early '80s and still have it buried in my junk in the basement along with
Super Bowl XX (the Bears' only SB victory).
I'm using Blu-ray since I have a PS3. However, with the bigger price tag
per Blu-ray disc, I have only four movies. I'm very picky on the collection
I pick up -- want to make sure I have a version I can travel with on regular
I have a high-def flat-screen that goes up to 1080i. To be honest with
you, the "quality" of the movies on Blu-ray are just not worth the
premium price tag. What might make my experience better is if I had a home
theater system plugged in, but I really don't want to spend the money on that
For now, most of my DVD collection is in the old-school format. Considering
I watch a DVD maybe once or twice, I can't really get the value yet out of
the higher-cost Blu-ray. Plus, I still like to rent over owning a ton of movies
that end up collecting dust. And with the $1 kiosks at grocery stores and
fast-food restaurants -- you just can't beat that price.
After the Sony rootkit debacle a while back, I refuse to purchase anything
with the Sony brand name on it. I don't like a business model that relies
on FUD, deception and bullying the customers. That said, I obviously prefer
the HD-DVD standard over Blu-ray.
I have not purchased a HD-DVD player yet for a couple of reasons. One,
I am waiting for the price to come down to a reasonable level. Two, I am waiting
for a winner to be declared.
I prefer the HD-DVD format because it is economical and compatible with
existing DVD formats such that one side of the disc can be HD DVD and the
other standard DVD. Sony also has a history of putting several layers of digital
rights protection on its technology that adds overhead and, sometimes, viruses
to the discs.
I don't own a high-definition DVD player; I'm among those waiting to see.
But I do have a format preference in view of my large library of DVDs that
would be worthless if Blu-ray wins the day.
But then, I did guess wrong back in the '80s when I bought a Betamax
camera and recorder...and a ton of now-worthless Beta tapes.
Shame on both factions for letting the high-def war actually get this
far, with two different formats shipping to consumers. If you recall, there
was an effort to merge the two standards before products actually hit the
street, which obviously failed.
Should I care? No. Look at dual-layer DVDs -- the standard has been around
for years, and yet there is still no low-cost writeable media for DL discs.
Can you imagine what it would be like to buy an HD-DVD or Blu-ray burner/player
and not be able to use it effectively because there is no readily available
or cost-effective media?
I have no desire to be an early adopter and lose my hard-earned money
to a format that will go the way of the dodo bird. Right now, I have a Media
Center PC that converts all my DVDs to near-high-def resolution. I'm not missing
much while the various vendors club each other over the head for market share.
Tell us what you think! Send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
or leave a comment below.
Ed Scannell is the editor of Redmond magazine.