Monday, July 28, 2008

Cuil load problem

I have experimented a bit with this new search engine called Cuil. It has some interesting features, but on some relatively simple queries I get the following error messages:

No results because of high load...

Due to excessive load, our servers didn't return results. Please try your search again.

And if I click "Search" repeatedly, it just gives the same error.

But if I enter another query, I get results right away.

I suspect that cuil caches the queries, and that they have a load problem such that they presently do not have the resources to process or cache new queries that they have not seen before.

As the message says, I will try my search again... later.

-- Jack Krupansky

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The alleged perception problem of Microsoft

There is an interesting PC World article by Nancy Gohring entitled "Microsoft: Stodgy or Innovative? It's All About Perception" which repeats the common belief that Microsoft has a "perception" problem. Overall it is a decent article and does highlight that Microsoft is doing a lot of good work, but it repeats the somewhat-untrue but common belief that:

... Microsoft needs to address the perception problem, which runs deep and could have repercussions on sales of future products if the company doesn't manage to fix it.

The article also claims that:

The perception problem stretches into the online services market, where Microsoft has struggled to attract users.

While it is true that Microsoft is working very hard to drive deeper into the online services market, have they really done that badly? If we consult the Alexa ranking for the Top 100 Web sites we find that Yahoo is #1, Google has #2 ( and #3 (, but then Microsoft has #4 ( and #5 ( and #14 ( That is actually not that bad at all, being the #3 player in the online space and having two of the Top 5 sites. Sure Microsoft wants to be better (witness their recent interest it acquiring Yahoo), but to label the #3 player as suffering from a perception problem is rather misleading and outright ingenuous.

The problem Microsoft has is twofold: 1) An army of naysayers and opponents of the company in Silicon Valley, and 2) An army of biased critics in the media and on Wall Street. These are hard-core bias issues, not "perception" per se. No amount of effort by the company is going to reduce the incessant naysaying of company opponents in Silicon Valley. Ditto for bias in the media and on Wall Street.

What is the source of all of this bias? Simple: Microsoft has been too successful and does not owe any of its success to the chattering classes in Silicon Valley, the media, or on Wall Street. Microsoft has focused on producing economical and "good enough" products for "the masses", bypassing the need to be "blessed" by "The Elite" in Silicon Valley, the media, and on Wall Street. Microsoft has been successful at commoditizing its image. Almost everybody, even those who shop at Wal-Mart out of economic necessity, can now afford to have a PC in their home and office. Sure, the PC hardware vendors and software developers and other members of the "PC ecosystem" have helped in that effort, but it is Microsoft that led the way on the operating system and office productivity software fronts. A lot of people in Silicon Valley and the media and Wall Street are intensely jealous of that success, and show it. That is the root cause of the so-called "perception" problem, the elephant standing in the middle of the room that the media and company critics refuse to acknowledge. That is an issue that Microsoft has to cope with on a daily basis, but it is certainly not the kind of "image" or "perception" problem that Microsoft can do anything about other than to quietly tolerate it and keep on pumping out economical and "good enough" products for "the masses."

Sure, Apple and Google and many other companies are very successful, and even more successful than Microsoft in some niches, but Microsoft is still wildly successful overall by any measure.

How successful? For the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2008, Microsoft recorded revenue of $60.4 billion and net income of $17.7 billion. Google? Net income of $4.2 billion. Apple? Net income of $3.5 billion. Nobody is even close to Microsoft.

And just how bad is the "perception" problem on "drag" from Vista and Microsoft's online investments? A year ago, revenue was $51.1 billion and net income was $14.1 billion. That is a revenue increase of 18% and a net income gain of 26% on the back of so-called "disasters" on the Vista and online services fronts. So much for "disasters." Given its size, Microsoft's growth is absolutely phenomenal.

For the record, the trailing P/E ratio for Microsoft is 14.0, well below the rate that net income grew over the past year even with the perceived "disasters" of Vista and Microsoft's online services efforts (with their #4 and #5 Web sites.)

The "facts" about Microsoft, as a company, as an organization, its products, its services, its financial results, and even many of its future plans are readily available in the Web and well-known to many people in Silicon Valley, the media, and Wall Street. These people know exactly what is going on with Microsoft and it is not an "image" or "perception" problem. It is called bias, and a lot of it is outright malicious in nature. Microsoft is doing the right thing and simply ignoring it and pushing on and focusing on developing and delivering products and services for its customers and not catering to the chattering "elite" of Silicon Valley, the media, and Wall Street.

I would just like to see people be a bit more honest and talk about their own bias problem rather than the so-called "perception" problem.


Disclosure: I do own Microsoft stock and continue to purchase it, most recently two weeks ago.

-- Jack Krupansky

Friday, July 25, 2008

Virus warning: Greetings, how are you doing? Give we shall meet!

There is a new virus going around via email that I had never seen before. My McAfee anti-virus software did manage to catch it, but not immediately. After viewing the innocuous-looking simple text email, McAfee automatically shutdown Outlook Express and  popped up a message saying that it had detected a buffer overflow, which is a favored way to load malicious code into your system for execution.

The message subject was "Give we shall meet!" and the message body wasy simply "Greetings, how are you doing? Give we shall meet!"

I examined the source text of the message and it clearly had JavaScript code that was trying to execute code.

So, if your see that subject line, "Give we shall meet!", DO NOT view the message. Simply delete it. But, hopefully your AV software will detect the attempted buffer overflow first.

-- Jack Krupansky

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Microsoft to give online services equal billing with Windows in reorg

Although I have mixed feelings about Kevin Johnson leaving Microsoft, I am absolutely thrilled that the company will be splitting the Online Services business unit away from the Windows platform division to stand separately and report directly to Steve Ballmer. The press release did not explicitly say that Online Services would be a standalone division with its own president, but I am guessing that is where they are headed. In fact, I always assumed that Online Services would end up as a separate, top-level divsion if the Yahoo acquisition had ever come to fruition.

This is a very positive move, and shows that Online Services has grown significantly in the past few years.

I do wish that Kevin could have continued at the company, but everybody needs to move on at some point.

Knowing a little bit about how the company works, I am guessing that there was probably an extreme level of internal tension over how sloppily the whole Yahoo deal was proceeding. It was Kevin's job to make it work, and... he really didn't pull it off in a way that anyone would say is "outstanding."

This is the time of year when performance reviews, promotions, raises, and bonuses are being finalized, and I cannot imagine that the handling of the Yahoo deal was much of a feather in Kevin's cap. Personally, I wouldn't have objected if Kevin were fired for the combination of the sloppy handling of Vista and Yahoo.

That said, I really am pleased that Online Services will be getting some standalone attention rather than being stuffed away under "Windows." That never really made any sense.

-- Jack Krupansky

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Whiner Nation

Rats... I missed my chance. Some time ago (a year ago?) I made a note to myself to write a blog post called "Whiner Nation", to opine on the degree to which we have become a nation of whiners. I never followed through on that note. Now, Phil Gramm has "stolen" my (undisclosed) idea and achieved a level of infamy with it. Who knows, maybe he did me a favor.

Just as a matter of disclosure, I have to admit that I myself happen to be a whiner. And proud of it! There is nothing wrong with being a whiner, unless you are in denial and refuse to accept and publically acknowledge it.

To be clear, blogging is a symptom and strong indicator that someone is a whiner.

I have been known to whine about many things and many people, but there is one person who I have never whined about... Phil Gramm. The guy really makes me laugh. I have attended a number of congressional hearings when he has spoken and he invariably comes out of left field with some zinger. He is a true, all-American character. Maybe you find his brand of humor funny and maybe you do not, but we adults are supposed to be adult enough to see through superficial facades and style of personality and focus on real meaning rather than style of presentation. At least that is the theory. So much for theory.

All Phil was really saying is that people need to take more responsibility for their own lives and their own decisions and that the media and political opportunists do in fact tend to blow things up out of propertion to the reality. Phil is right on one point, that too many people are in a "mental recession" inspired by the media and opportunistic politicians. Sure, some percentage of people are in some level of trouble and some degree of pain, but all Phil is saying is that the percentage is small relative to the overall economy and that the overall economy still has not deteriorated to the level where even the experts agree that it is a true "recession."

Yes, we truly are a nation of whiners, but we do need to get over it and move on. Enough singing of "somebody done somebody wrong" songs.

As far as Phil Gramm, the reaction from McCain suggests that the Republicans are really running scared. Really scared. Personally, I though Gramm's commenary was rather innocuous and neither here nor there when it comes to the real "meat" and big picture of politics. Maybe the reaction simply hints at how thin-skinned politics has become this year.

Metal note to myself: Write a post to whine about people who whine about people who whine about whiners and bad-mough whining. Hmmm... I wonder if there is a market for "Whining for Dummies"? Or maybe a tome even more basic: "Whining for Bloggers"?

Please feel free to whine in my comment section.

-- Jack Krupansky

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Microsoft and AOL?

I read a blog post on Fortune by Michal Lev-Ram entitled "Report: Talks between Microsoft and AOL heat up" that once again has me hoping that Microsoft will finally see the wisdom of spinning off its MSN online "content" business, possibly to be combined with other media "content" operations such as Yahoo and AOL. My ideal transaction would be a standalone company combining the content operations of MSN, Yahoo, and AOL, with Microsoft and others as significant "joint" owners and with the combined content business utilizing Microsoft's online platform infrastructure for data centers, "cloud" computing, Web services, support for mobile devices, and "search." Whether such a combination will ever come to fruition remains to be seen. I am not particularly interested in Microsoft becoming even more of a "content" business by acquiring the "content" operations of either Yahoo or AOL.

Microsoft  should focus on the platform and infrastructure aspects of the Internet. Of course, this is only my own opinion.

-- Jack Krupansky

Monday, July 07, 2008

Latest on Microsoft and Yahoo combination potential

An announcement on the Microsoft PressPass web site confirms that Microsoft is indeed open to the possibility of buying all of Yahoo or just "search", but only when and if a new board of directors is elected:

We confirm, however, that after the shareholder election Microsoft would be interested in discussing with a new board a major transaction with Yahoo!, such as either a transaction to purchase the "Search" function with large financial guarantees or, in the alternative, purchasing the whole company.

Personally, and as a Microsoft shareholder, I would rather see Microsoft pick up some pieces of Yahoo, especially "search", and then have the remains of Yahoo be combined with other media entities. In fact, my real preference would be for Microsoft to spin off MSN and have MSN merge with the Yahoo content business, with Microsoft as an investor in that business. This would allow Microsoft to re-focus on the platform aspects of the Internet. Of course, this is only my own opinion.

-- Jack Krupansky