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Chris Pirrilo’s Naked Review

I finally got to meet and speak (briefly) with Chris Pirillo at Search Champs, and checking out his quite popular blog, I decided to check out his Naked Conversations video review, which Scoble had mentioned at some point.


Yeah, no comment. See it to believe it.

Hilarious stuff.

January 26th, 2006 Posted by | Blogs, General, Humor | no comments

Microsoft Reports Solid Earnings

Well, I guess I should be glad I didn’t leave Seattle before the Microsoft earnings report, otherwise having to post about it a day later.

Microsoft posted solid earnings of $3.65 billion on revenues of $11.8 billion, up 5 and 9 percent (respectively) from $3.46 billion and $10.8 billion (respectively) a year ago. This represents a gain of 34 cents per share, beating analysts expectations by a penny.

Microsoft reports that it sold 1.5 million Xbox 360 consoles during the November 22-December 31 period, less than they wanted because of supply, but more than naysayers assumed.

For the Xbox 360, DiValerio said that Microsoft sold 900,000 units in North America, 500,000 units in Europe, and 100,000 in Japan. Overall, the company sold four games and three accessories for every console. The Xbox division lost $293 million in the quarter, versus a profit of $55 million a year earlier.

MSN lost more than half its earnings, although that does not reflect on the efforts on search and Windows Live.

Microsoft’s MSN online division also saw earnings fall to $58 million, from $130 million in the same quarter last year. Liddell attributed the drop to a significant decline in its business of offering narrowband Internet connections, which is being supplanted by increased popularity in faster broadband offerings.

Microsoft expects revenues on the year to be roughly $44-45 billion.

The software maker raised its earnings guidance slightly for the fiscal year ending June 30. The company said it now expects to earn between $1.28 and $1.31 per share, up from previous guidance of between $1.26 and $1.30 per share.

Revenue for the full fiscal year is now expected to be between $44 billion and $44.5 billion, up from previous guidance of between $43.7 billion and $44.5 billion.

January 26th, 2006 Posted by | Corporate, General | one comment

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Scoble “Edge Case” Audio From Search Champs

Here’s the audio of Scoble’s response to being called an “edge case” at MSN Search Champs earlier today (explanation in this post). The recording is courtesy of Dion Hinchcliffe.

If you don’t understand that Scoble truly is passionate, if you’re one of those people that call him a marketing shill, I hope this audio makes at least a little difference.

January 26th, 2006 Posted by | General, Live, MSN, Search, Windows | no comments

Live Labs Presentation By Dr. Gary Flake

A warning: The first half of this post was liveblogging, which is an uneven and sometimes confusing style. If you find yourself getting bored, just skip ahead to the meat of it where I bolded a few words.


There’s been a lot of news reports over the last day on Live labs, and today they decided we should be briefed on it. Gary Flake, who presumably was hired away from Yahoo Research for exactly this purpose, starts talking about the “internet singularity”, then democratization and “Macro-ization” in computing, the idea that greater power and greater choice lowers the barrier to do new things. Now, desktop publishing is something that can be accessible to regular end users. Amatuers are becoming “pro-sumers”. “We will enable this year anyone to create their own customized search engine”.

Commerce is becoming a democracy, with diverse options. The community options out there allow people to connect easily on any level. Discusses the Long Tail, which needs to have a drinking game based on it (two shots for every Long Tail mention, one shot for Web 2.0). Lots of people are creating content because they can rely on the Long Tail, resulting in much larger ecosystems. The market filters things out, the community filters things out, with the sum of the parts creating a lens to help you find information.

Gary worked at Overture earlier, and he explains how Google came in the paid search field they invented later, but won because they made decisions that targetted the tail, while Overture targeted large companies.

“Web search is now the greatest applied CS R&D field”, and so many of the things we learn from the internet, the more they bleed into science, engineering and mathematic.

He explains Live Labs, a joint partnership between MSN and MS Research, creating over 100 new positions, a virtual organization. Designed to hit the sweet spot between science and engineering, users and business and such. There’s a sweet spot between pure engineering and pute science, and this is designed to leverage the relationships from both sides to hit the sweet spot in the middle.

The goal is, of course, to create great products and rapidly expose them to the outside world. “We’re gonna put out things that are somtimes less then beta”. They want to take a discrete way of doing products and move it into something faster. They’re creating a new class of hiring, invest in more research grants, create an applied science track within MSN while making more engineering resources available to MSR. The goal: improve MS’s innovation clock cycle.

They plan to ramp up the API limitations in this program.

Someone asks a queston about the danger of moving away from the newspaper model to blogs, and Scoble tore into the idea that blogs and choosing your own information are dangerous. The questioner called Robert an “edge case”, and he made an impassioned statement on how when he showed his friends IM, they called him an edge case; when he showed people the Mac, they said they didn’t need windows and a mouse. I was inspired, and Scoble got applause. Someone recorded it, and promises to send out an MP3, which I’ll post here later.

Okay, so, getting off the confusing liveblogging style, here’s the rub on Live Labs, as far as I could determine from the presentation and from talking to Dr. Flake afterwards. Basically, everyone, both people working at Microsoft and outsiders, agrees that MS gets outdone by three-person startups that can be more nimble, more reckless and more innovative.

Microsoft has great research people and great development people, and Live Labs is designed to bridge the two with a group that is free from the restrictions normally imposed on development teams. They will be able to work without worrying about how their product affects existing teams and existing revenue models, with the end results being the sole purpose of the team. They’ll be able to tap into the coding talent as well as the brainiacs in research, allowing for different types of brains to work on the same projects.

In a sense, its a startup within Microsoft.

Now, the idea, on paper, is a great one. If Microsoft can succeed with this team to develop fast, smart and risky products, everybody wins. The problem is, things rarely work out like you expect. I hope they can keep the hands-off approach, I hope they can think outside the box, and I hope they can pull it off. Good luck to them.


On a side note, before you start comparing this to Google Labs, understand this: Google Labs is a marketing tool, it is not an actual team within Google. Many of the Labs products are developed in regular Googlers 20% free time, while others are just risks the company wants to keep as low-key as possible, while others are just theory products.

Live Labs is going to be mostly composed of people working 100% of the time, and shipping often (how many months between Google Labs releases?). Live Labs will be taking people from both MSN and MS Research, as well as hiring a lot of new people, leveraging research grants, and working collaboratively with other insitutions. Google Labs is 50% marketing and 50% “what if?”. Live Labs is a workplace, designed to create product innovatively. While the message may overlap, only Live Labs will have the resources to actually make a difference.

January 26th, 2006 Posted by | Corporate, General, Live, Windows | 3 comments

Search Champs Non-NDA Session

I’ve seen some great stuff at Search Champs, and heard some even better ones (for instance did you know that ________ rumor is completely accurate, and that _________ happened because ________ said ________?) Problem is, so much of it is under NDA. Personally, I’m grateful for the opportunity to see these products and do what little I can to help out, but I still wish I could share more of it. Well, late today, we finally had a session we could blog about. Well, mostly, since every so often a speaker paused and said, “Oh, this isn’t bloggable”.

At the top, we saw a demo of what Windows Local has, basically a familiarization with the service, then go off NDA (arghh). I already know all about Live Local, but I did learn a few things about Local I hadn’t noticed, all of them useful. The NDA stuff? Well, it looks good. As did most of the NDA stuff. I didn’t get demos of any crap, is what I’m saying.

After that, Program Manager demo’d’s current and some future feature. He described Live as a sort of desktop for the web, and that they are bringing in user experience expectations to the web, like right-click context menus and drag and drop.

The gadgets were shown off, and we get full confirmation that the Windows Sidebar will run the gadgets, and that Windows XP will get that functionality, likely before Windows Vista ships. We’re informed that you will be able to drag Gadgets off and put them on your desktop instead, which makes the whole system a lot more useful. I could see people loading up their page with every interesting Gadget, dragging Gadgets back and forth from the desktop depending on whether they needed them there more often. Lets see OS X / Yahoo do that.

One thing that looked great was a TV recommendations Gadget, which will launch eventually. It talks to your Media Center PC, takes what you watch, shows you what you’ve watched, lets you rate them, and recommends other shows for you to watch/record. If you agree with it or just see a show you want to record, you can tell the Gadget and it’ll schedule a recording.

Take a look: TV Recommendations

There’s another feature launching tomorrow. Its a minor one, but nice. Basically, when you have an RSS feed, if the feed has pictures in it, it shows a rotating view of the photos within the feed box. Looks nice. RSS Feeds with Images

Now, we see MSN AdCenter, and we’re shows how you target ads to an audience. You can choose regions or specific cities to target, specidifc days of the week, times of day, target men or women more than the other or certain age groups more than others. AdCenter pulls data from Passport or Hotmail to determine what type of person you are, and then Microsoft “uses third party sources to verify the accuracy” of the data. Hmm… That’s something I want to hear more about.

You can enter a keyword and see how often bleach is searched for (and other searches with bleach in it), and what demographic group was searching for it. You can then see queries searched for around your target search and learn even more about your target audience, so you know what other keywords to buy related to the searchers you are trying to reach. Like, if you’re targeting bleach, and people searching for bleach also tend to search right before it for a similar keyword, it’ll expose that for you so you can better target the ad campaign.

Next, we look at Windows Live Expo (code-named Fremont), which I got to see earlier in an NDA session. Expo is designed, like Craigslist, to sell stuff to people in your area, or, unlike Craigslist, to people you know. If you are part of a company or group with an email domain, you can verify that through your email and become part of that group on Expo. This means you can maintain a level of trust, selling to coworkers or people at your school. You can browse without signing in, but can’t contact or sell items without signing into your Passport.

There are categories for Cars, Events, Housing, Jobs, People (including “Activities”), Pets and Services. You can filter all results by a location radius and by group (people you know, everyone). You can, using an AJAX popin, change your search radius or group quickly. Every page has the option of an AJAX popin to show you where things are, including search results. You can send double-blind messages (neither side sees an email address), or through MSN Messenger (not blind, but otional).

One cool thing: When typing in a search, you see suggested categories automatically to the right of the search box. That means, that if you type in “Honda”, it suggests cars and bikes, and clicking on either runs the search with the category, making things more specific and faster. Using AJAX in subtle ways to improve search queries while you are typing the search query is a great way to make search better.

Basic listings are free, ad-supported, although if someone wants to use the tech for their own service, there are ways to negotiate that.

There are other things I want to touch on, like the large amounts of discussion on the DOJ stuff and just my experiences at Microsoft’s campus, but I’ll blog that when I get back. If you want more, I’ll be bookmarking every single other Search Champers posts, so watch the posts.

January 26th, 2006 Posted by | Expo, General, Live, Local, MSN, Search, Windows | one comment