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New CEO Is Yahoo's Last Hope

Yahoo has been trailing Google in the search industry for several years now, and the last two CEO's have done little to assuage the situation. Yahoo used to be a leader in the industry (yep, back in the days when Tim Koogle was at the helm), but stock prices and investor confidence had taken dives since Google took charge of the market. That's why the new CEO, Carol Bartz, is probably Yahoo's last hope.

Carol Bartz, 60, is taking over the reins as CEO for Yahoo, and at a critical time as well -- Google is coming out with great new features (albeit perpetually in beta stage) that continually leave the competition in the dust. Investors hope her hard-line approach to handling things will turn things around for the beleaguered company.

Bartz's two predecessors didn't do too well at catching up with Google -- in fact, they didn't seem to be fit for the job at all. Former CEO, Terry Semel, was a great leader at Warner Brothers, but had no savvy in tech and computers. The next one, Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang is a software guru, but has some well-known management issues -- sometimes arriving at meetings almost an hour late.

Bartz provides a stark contrast to the two. She definitely knows what she's doing when she's on top -- she's credited with multiplying her former company Autodesk's annual revenue by FIVE during the 14 years she's worked there. Autodesk produces specialist drawing and modeling programs for architects and engineers.

But what Bartz is more well-known for is her tongue, which is as sharp as her focus on making a big company work at its best. She's been known to unload the occasional four-letter word at meetings and conferences, and isn't shy about it. Asked at a recent conference whether company boards should be more offensive or defensive during these economic times, she replied without missing a beat: "I'm an offensive kind of person. Stop laughing."

Bartz has seen what Yahoo has become under Yang's leadership, and while the company has the necessary technical expertise, its management resembles a "Dilbert cartoon." Yahoo employees should expect some sweeping changes in the way they do things now that Bartz is in charge. I don't know if they're excited about the idea, but I sure am.

The Weekend On Twitter, Google, Bing, and... Apple?

Twitter and other social media platforms were the site of countless e-riots and e-demonstrations over the weekend, particularly after the events of the Iranian election. Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won a shocking landslide election over his main rival, Mir Hossein Moussavi.

There was no doubt Ahmadinejad was a contender, but it was clear for most of the election that Moussavi was much more popular with the people. Moussavi had been touted to be Iran's Barack Obama, who, while not really pro-West, isn't exactly happy about how Ahmadinejad antagonized the rest of the world and tarnished Iran's image.

Social media followings of Moussavi on Facebook, Twitter, and other problems showed that he was head and shoulders above Ahmadinejad in online popularity. Moussavi's supporters (and much of the international community) raised eyebrows several days before the elections, when problems hounded the Internet, text messaging, and other media in Iran. These were the volumes where Moussavi's supporters made his campaign extremely successful.

Now that demonstrations in Iran are being quelled (Tweets about soldiers raiding university dorms, beating up students and firing teargas into demonstrations), Moussavi's supporters are turning to Twitter to tell the injustice to the rest of the world. As a result, demonstrations are erupting all over the world in solidarity with Moussavi's supporters and the rest of Iran.

It's clear that Iran's people aren't all fanatical supporters of Ahmadinejad as Iran's state-controlled media propaganda tells us. But as long as a small hole called Twitter exists in Iran's media steel curtain, there's always hope.


In other news, Twitter was also under the spotlight over the weekend -- although it was largely because of Google. The big guys at Google have openly expressed their awe at Twitter's real-time search capability in the past, and are now hinting at a microblogging feature in the near future.

No, they're not coming out with a new Twitter (they've already got Jaiku, remember? Or whatever's left of that "project"), but they're planning to incorporate relevant Tweets into search results soon. Kind of like Twootles, but with better, more relevant results. After all, while Twitter gives the fastest results, they're not always the best ones. Speed isn't worth much without accuracy.


Is Google afraid of Bing? Apparently not as much as some people think, but Microsoft's search share grew 2% last week since Bing came to the fore. Microsoft probably has something up its sleeve, but even those things don't scare Google. Let's wait and see.


I suppose the company that gets the most pressure from this whole thing is Apple. Why Apple? Simply because every time I read an article on the 'Net about Bing or any other Microsoft-related offering, the comments section is 99% always a rage board for those who think Apple is better than Microsoft and those who don't. With the ease with which Apple connects and keeps track with their followers, this furor should be hard to ignore.

Microsoft Bing vs Google Squared

Microsoft recently came out with their first ads for Bing, their new search engine. The first one poked fun on Google's use of keywords and such, likening the "search chaos" that results from keyword searches to the current worldwide economic chaos. I was like, "Oh, really."

I've tried Bing on several occasions, and so far it's been one big yawn. Sure, the Bing homepage has a nice view, but... there's not much else. What I can do on Bing, I can also do on Google -- only better.

I think Bing's main draw is the fact that it relies on open-source technology, and has a secondary server that searches only Wikipedia, which increases Bing's chances of coming up with more relevant results than Google. This may be great for hardcore researchers, but not for the remaining 99% of the web surfing population.

It doesn't help things that Bing's interface doesn't seem to be any different from Google's or any other search engine's. At first glance, it's just another cookie-cutter search engine. Bing's developers claim they'll be tweaking the interface to make Bing's strengths much more accessible. I hope they do it soon, because I've a feeling people are very quickly losing interest.

The move towards open-source technology is worth applauding, though, and just might be the (much needed) game-changer for Microsoft in the long run. I just hope they leverage the technology over the next few years to establish themselves as the company who sets the tone for others to follow, instead of being the one perennially playing catch up.

(Still, it's a funny move for Microsoft to rely on open-source and Wikipedia now, especially after trashing Linux and spending millions on MSN Encarta in the past.)

Right now, though, I'm infinitely more interested in yet another Beta project of Google's -- Google Squared. It's similar to the new search engine Wolfram Alpha, in the sense that it structures the search results in a spreadsheet layout.

I tried searching "smartphone" in Google Squared and got a spreadsheet of all the latest smartphones on the X-axis, and size, weight, description, and price on the Y-axis. It was smart enough to put the iPhone and the Blackberry at the top two spots. Very cool.

Google Squared's developers admit the technology isn't perfect yet, but will continue to improve. I saw what they meant when I searched "search engine" -- Yahoo! Search was #1, and Google #2. On the upside, Bing was nowhere to be found.


Google Wave -- The Next Big Thing?

Recent developments in the search and collaborative media industry has taken some of the luster from Google's image, especially when Twitter revealed where Google falls short -- real-time search results. And nope, no matter what you hear, Google isn't out to buy Twitter. Apparently it has other, much bigger things in mind.

Enter Google Wave, Google's next ambitious project. It's out to revolutionize the way we do things on the Internet, supposedly merging e-mail, blogging, file sharing, cloud computing, and other common social media activities into one single online application. It made mainstream news last week, and has everyone on the Internet buzzing about the possibilities.

After all, who hasn't thought about how cool it would be to rely on only one online application for everything they need to do on the Internet?

We've all been there -- a few years ago, we all faced the problem of whether to sign up for Yahoo! Messenger, ICQ, MSN Messenger, Skype, or any other chat/voice client to keep in touch with friends, family, and co-workers. Most of us had to sign up for more than one application, which led to frustrating PC slowdowns, forgotten passwords, and basically a hairload of hassles.

Today, we face a similar predicament -- social media. With so many social media platforms out there -- Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, you name it -- we're constantly pressed to sign up for every single one of them.

Apparently, Google's playing Internet god again by changing the way we do things. Google Wave isn't by any means ready for testing, but from what we've heard so far, all the chat clients and all the web-based e-mail providers and all the social media platforms will be in a world of hurt if it ever takes off.

Yup, that includes Twitter -- Google is working on providing near-real-time results for searches made on Wave. As a collaborative platform, that's entirely possible.

There's only one question -- wouldn't Google be cannibalizing itself with Wave? The new application overlaps the functions of Gmail and Google Docs, after all. I suppose it remains to be seen.

For now, it's a cool idea, and I'm not really worried because, well, it's freaking Google. On the other hand, if it were Microsoft...

Microsoft Gets Onto Google-Killer Bandwagon With Bing

There's no real doubt about Google's dominance of the search industry today. There's no real doubt, either, that many of the industry's big names are also out to snag the top spot from the Big G, coming out with widely-hyped "Google-killers" that fall flat on their faces mere weeks after their debut. Next up: Microsoft.

Yesterday, Microsoft unveiled their new search engine, "Bing." This new search service replaces the largely-unsuccessful Live Search, which itself replaced the also-unsuccessful MSN Search. Bing, according to its creators, will eventually snag the synonym for "search" that Google has established many years ago.

Yup, apparently the guys at Microsoft see people saying, "Bing it!" in the near future. They claim that the name is easy to remember, is acceptable in all cultures, and ends in "-ing" -- which evidently means something to them. (The impact eludes me by a wide margin.)

I can't deny it -- I'm pretty skeptical about Microsoft's latest attempt to buff up its name in the computing world. I think 90% of the time for the past several years, Microsoft has been playing catch-up with the other big names in the computing world. After Apple changed the way we listen to music with the iPod, they came up with Zune. Years after Apple reached out to its customers with their retail stores, Microsoft opened their first retail store as well. And now this.

Is Google worried? Apparently not. Remember when Cuil first came out? It boasted of a much bigger index capacity than Google, and the Big G was quick to issue figures reiterating their dominance of the search world -- which was already something, since Google usually use their performance do all the talking.

Has Google said anything about Bing so far? Yup, but only two words: "No comment."

I'll keep a close eye on Bing over the next several days and see if it does anything worthy to be considered a "Google-killer" brand. For now, all I can do is poke at Microsoft for their seemingly bad way of naming their products. (Yup, it's truly FUN for me.)

#1 - Microsoft knows it can't hope to break into the smartphone market, so they've decided to stay with developing mobile phone operating systems -- a rare wise move on their part. But for goodness' sake -- why name it WinCE?

#2 - If searching on Google is "Googling," then searching on Bing is... "Bing?", "Binging?" "Binganizing"

#3 - With all of Vista's performance problems, it's now unflatteringly known as "Windoze." No surprise there.

#4 - One day after its release, Bing is already an unfortunate acronym -- "But It's Not Google."


New Zealand Kid Accidentally Buys Digger

Like most other people my age these days, I'm amazed at kids these days. They start their own businesses at nine, they learn to read at five, and -- judging from a news story I read yesterday -- make their first Internet purchases at three.

A New Zealand couple got the shock of their lives when they woke up last week and got an e-mail from an online seller, asking for NZ$20,000 -- about US$12,800 -- for a piece of heavy machinery that they apparently bought over the Internet the previous night.

That's when Sarah Quinlain realized that her daughter Pipi made the winning bid while she slept the previous night. Pipi, only three years old, had only been introduced to the PC and the Internet the week before. But with most kids these days, Pipi was a fast learner.

Sarah and Pipi had been browsing through the Toys section of TradeMe, an online buy-and-sell and auctionsite, when Sarah left her session online as she went to bed. The next morning, Pipi woke up early and snuck back to the PC, eventually making the winning bid for an earthdigger.

At first, Sarah thought the earthdigger was a toy -- but she later realized it was a real Kobelco digger, and the excited seller was already asking if she could make the cash deposit soon. She asked her husband, Reid, to see if the e-mails were real -- and they were.

Reid shrugged and said, "I guess we have to move the Honda."

No worries, though -- Sarah immediately called the auction site and explained herself, on behalf of Pipi. The site eventually agreed to cancel the sale, reimbursed the unimpressed seller, and put the auction for the earthdigger back up on the list.

Of course, Pipi's parents have learned their lesson -- never leave your buy-and-sell sessions online before going to bed at night. This is especially important when you're in a public place or working on a shared PC. It's a lesson that most people my age these days have yet to learn.

While the seller wasn't very happy with the way things turned out, most New Zealanders see the funny side of things. Most people on the blogosphere also do, and agree that it's a great story to tell when Pipi grows up.

Google Not Yet Real-Time, But Still Getting Better

Google still can't keep up with Twitter when it comes to real-time results -- after all, it still had articles about "Who's Getting The Boot In American Idol" hours after the results got Tweeted today. (It's a little embarrassing -- I'm not much of a fan for either Idol or Twitter, but the real-time results are just too fantastic not to study.) With at least ten Tweets per second on the topic, it was easy to be among the first people on the other side of the world to hear the news.

(Don't worry, no spoilers here.)

But Google isn't sitting on its laurels twiddling its thumbs on the matter. It's still actively finding ways to give the most relevant search results any search engine can. Right now the guys at the Big G are conducting a project -- yes, yet another Google thing in Beta -- that asks users if they're feeling well.

There's a reason for this, they say. Not all of Google's users log on to do some research -- sometimes they look for quick remedies for common ailments. So now, when you enter a search term about, say, "headaches," you might get a quick question along with your search results: "Did you search because you or someone you know has a headache? Yes/No"

Now it's obviously helpful to immediately find quick treatments for ear infections and cold sores and such. But this could also let Google sound the alarm if they detect an abrupt rise in any search terms from any corner of the world, bringing worldwide attention to what might become an epidemic.

(This wasn't done with the Swine Flu scare, because tens of thousands of people in Mexico had to go down with it before anyone took notice.)

Google may no longer be the best place to find breaking news on the Internet, but it's still the best place to find all other kinds of information. With these tweaks, it's getting even better. I just hope they work on further improvement for Google blogs and Google News next.

Wi-Fi Now Making It To Airlines

It's been a good few months since US Airlines began testing Wi-Fi equipment on their aircraft, and they've apparently worked out the kinks already. AirTran Airways is the first airline company in the world to offer in-flight Wi-Fi on all their aircraft beginning this summer -- that's about two months from now. Other airlines in the United States will follow suit very soon.

It's obviously a move in the right direction, since more and more people around the world feel that being offline is like being a fish out of water. It doesn't help things that most digital devices today -- laptops, mobile phones, iPods -- come with Wi-Fi capabilities. To be able to schmooze with YouTube and Twitter while 30,000 feet in the air should make air travel a bit more tolerable.

If you ask me, though, the price is still a little steep. It's $9.95 for domestic flights lasting three hours or less, and $12.95 for longer flights. If you're only using mobile devices, the price goes down to $7.95 (no matter how long the flight is). Still, shelling out almost $10 for Wi-Fi access in a relatively short flight still goes against my better judgment.

Also, in-flight Wi-Fi still won't let you make voice calls (even through Skype or VoIP) -- I don't think airlines will risk it, even for $12.95. I can't wait for a software workaround for this ;) Till then, for now, the best you can do is to chat and e-mail.

I doubt the prices will fall within a few years, however -- it reportedly costs around $100,000 to fit a single aircraft with Wi-Fi equipment, and they'll need to cover the investment quickly, especially in today's economic climate. It will probably cost even more to provide electric outlets on every seat -- something that most aircraft woefully lack.

Freelancers and Internet marketers would probably love the idea of being able to work while in transit, and the travel costs may even pale in comparison to the savings they'll get working in a country with a much lower cost-of-living. But if you're working for a big company and your boss expects you to work while in the air, in-flight Wi-Fi might be a bane instead of a boon.

Yup, gone are the days when you can use domestic flights to catch some much-needed Zzz's. There's always the temptation to Tweet "I'm the highest Twit in the world!", as well as having that idiot supervisor checking on you every five minutes. What's next? I could do without in-flight Wi-Fi, thank you very much -- all I really ask for is airline food that isn't remotely miserable.

Miserable!

Twootles -- More Of A Killer Than Cuil

It's been a while since the search engine Cuil touted itself as the "Google Killer," boasting of a more expansive index than the big G. However, by and large Cuil failed to live up to the hype, and it's pretty much avoided my radar. Later on it soon became clear that the future of search would not be won by the search engine with the largest index, but by the one who can bring real-time results.

And guess what -- Twitter has been leaving all the big search engines in the dust since it flitted into the collaborative media scene.

Twitter has the advantage of providing real-time search results, and with millions of Tweeple tweeting around the clock, events around the world show up on search results (and on Twitter's trending topics) almost instantly.

I'm not much of a Twit, but I did happen to check on my mostly-unused Twitter account a few weeks ago -- and saw the power of Twitter's search function at that moment. I was randomly doing searches on certain Hollywood actors, and the query "Nicolas Cage" immediately came up with Tweets, barely a few minutes old, by New Yorkers tweeting about a Ferrari crash in a set of Cage's new movie.

That was the first of two car crashes that occurred during shooting of Cage's upcoming film "The Sorcerer's Apprentice." I quickly turned to the big search engines to look for more news about the crash, but couldn't find any. I did Google searches every fifteen minutes after that, and finally got the first piece of vague news a little over two hours later.

That's the main problem of the bigger search engines -- it takes considerable time from the moment events happen to the moment reporters write up their articles to the moment when Google indexes the resulting web pages. It's no surprise that people are now turning to Twitter first, and Google second, to get real-time news on the 'Net. [It beats waiting for the news to come out on CNBC, too, unless of course Margaret Brennan is on.]

There have been rumors that the big names are out to buy Twitter soon -- Apple for $700 million and Google for $1 billion, for instance -- but apparently some guys beat them to it. Enter Twootles, a search engine that displays Google and Twitter results side-by-side.

I've tried it this morning and was fairly impressed by the interface, but there's still that common Twitter problem -- most of the results you'll get are Tweets by everyday people tweeting their friends. Twitter is, after all, primarily a social media platform, and people still use it to keep in touch with their network much more than to post and keep up with news.

Twootles is still in its beta stages, and its developers are currently working to include new features soon. What features would be good? For me, I'd like to see some filtering in the Twitter results to remove the "fat" and show only the newsworthy Tweets -- I did a search on "Chris Gomez," and while the Engine Alpha site made it to the Google results, most of what I got on Twitter was about Chris Brown and Rihanna. [I'd tell you about the latest news on that too, but that's another story...]

You can try Twootles out for yourself at www.twootles.com.

Is This Really A Man's Internet?

It's funny how 4 out of every 5 well-known personalities in the tech/media industry are male, especially when women Internet users now outnumber the men. Women in the industry seem to be getting relegated into second-rate experts, even when they can do the job every bit as well as men can. Why the "imbalance"?

There's no doubt that sexism is present in every industry in the world, so the tech/media industry is no exception. While the Internet itself doesn't lean towards the preference for male personalities, its users usually do -- it would seem that any statement, when made by a man, seems to be taken a little more seriously than if it were made by a woman.

This shouldn't be the case, as I know many women in the tech/media industry who really know their stuff and can do things most men can't even hope to. And if Oprah Winfrey and Rachel Ray can make it firmly on top of their own industries, then there's no reason women can't do the same in ours over here.

I think in order for Internet users to begin to take women more seriously, three things need to be done:

  • Women bloggers need to be more active, vocal and knowledgeable in their respective industries. The most well-known personalities on the 'Net are those who have shown themselves as authorities in their niches -- something women can easily do.
  • Women entrepreneurs need to reach beyond the Internet and market themselves more actively in the real world. Speaking at conferences, networking with their peers, and starting their own companies are some of the simpler things they can do.
  • Internet users, both male and female, simply need to realize that women can do things just as well -- if not better -- than men in the tech/media industry.


Starting this week I'm going to try to feature certain women who have made significant impact in the tech/media industry and maybe even some information about how they got to where they are now. I really do believe that the industry will grow in leaps and bounds when women begin to play on a more level playing field.