Bad Phish

When I get a phishing email of this poor quality I get pissed… at least put some effort into it. Make me believe you take some pride in your work.

Also note the use of “Bank Of America”… people, is it too much to ask to at least get the company name right?


Why Do We Need One?

Senator Durbin (D-IL) is going to host a series of online discussions about the lack of a national broadband strategy. I would ask the question from the other direction, do we need a national broadband strategy?

It strikes me that the U.S. technology industry has been most successful when the Federal government steps aside. Furthermore, it’s dangerous to just accept that "we are falling behind" in broadband when it’s hard to point to any concrete examples of where technology adoption rates are a cause for U.S. performance lagging.

For example, Durbin points to broadband adoption rates as why Americans don’t have access to the latest medical technology. I’d counter that access to online healthcare tools has been limited by regulatory demands for privacy (HIPAA) and a litigation environment that targets healthcare providers and causes them to avoid new technologies for fear of the risks they will be absorbing as a result. Therefore, I would suggest to Senator Durbin that Americans would get better and cheaper medical technology through tort reform rather than more broadband.

Lastly, as I pointed out last week, the idea that the U.S. is falling behind in broadband is not a simple matter of looking at per capita deployment.


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Pissing Away Taxpayer Euros

This sums up nicely (hat tip to Marc Andreessen) exactly what is wrong with the incestuous relationship between business and government in Europe… not to mention the fact that beaurocrats persist in their belief that they are responsible for innovation.

The European Union on Thursday authorized Germany to give $165 million for research on Internet search-engine technologies that could someday challenge U.S. search giant Google Inc.

Actually, that last point deserves additional commentary because in the past what would have happened is that Germany would have created a government funded, government run group to lead this research but in this case they are giving money to large companies instead.

Rather than create the conditions for innovation in the private sector, like reducing taxes and implementing labor law changes, the EU continues to believe that it is responsible for delivering innovation to the European economy, whatever that means.

I have so many problems with this effort that it’s hard to know where to start. How about the fact that a competitive search initiative is never going to come from any of these companies? Does anyone really see SAP or Siemens delivering a "Google killer"?

It’s not that they are technically incapable, in fact SAP has a pretty nice enterprise search engine called T-Rex, but let’s face the fact that these companies exist to solve different problems for different customers. Ironically, try finding out anything about Trex on SAP’s site… maybe SAP should devote some of the $165m to developing a better search tool for (great, I’m gonna be there tomorrow and somebody is bound to bring up my rant!)

Next up would be the fact that this isn’t a science problem anymore than Google is a search business. The core technology may be search but the business itself is all about advertising. Better search won’t beat Google, as my previous post today points out. Google’s business works because the search is "good enough" and paired with a revolutionary advertising disruption that they didn’t even develop.

Here’s another complaint I have about this, SAP just racked up another quarter of pretty impressive profits on growing revenues. Why should $165 million of European taxpayer money go to SAP (and Bertelsmann and Siemens and Thomson) when they could easily fund this research themselves if they identified a compelling business case for doing so? It should not and European taxpayers should be just as outraged by that as American taxpayers were when Exxon was getting tax breaks.

I won’t pretend to know everything about what EU governments should do to increase capital investment and R&D spending, but it does strike me as rather obvious that labor law reform for tech companies, and tax policy reform are two places to focus attention. This intiative to create a better search technology with almost a quarter billion dollars of taxpayer money is going to result in nothing, nada, zip, zero, and the fact that the money is going to companies flush with cash is simply outrageous.

Privacy as a Competitive Weapon

A while back I wrote a post titled Google Flirts With Evil in which I argued that Google should offer an aggressive opt-out mechanism for personal dat

"Google could actually take a leadership position on this issue [privcacy] and use it for competitive advantage, I would certainly be more inclined to use Google services over competitors, or anyone else for that matter, if this option [opt-out for personal information retention in personal search] were to be made available to me, but Google probably isn’t concerned about competition at this point and that should concern everyone.a not as a reaction to user concerns but as a competitive strategy."

In a later post that I can’t find right now I wrote about competitive strategy and how parallel disruption works through "restructuring the environment your competitive lives in". Essentially the idea is to disrupt a competitor’s business by creating a set of actions that are not reactions to the competitor but parallel in nature and intended to make the thing the competitor relies on less strategic.

SAP did this to Oracle a few years back when Ellison & Co. acquired Peoplesoft. Rather than get into a race to see who could acquire more, SAP went after the maintenance business with TomorrowNow resulting in Oracle having to shift assets to protect something they thought was safe. Parallel disruption in action.

I actually missed an opportunity with that second post to link it to the privacy issue in search as a great case study. It would appear from recent moves by non-Google search providers that privacy is indeed becoming a main thrust in an attempt to disrupt Google’s game.

"So, whose policy on the privacy issue is the best policy in terms of “really” protecting user’s privacy? The New York Times, thinks its and Yahoo. because with AskEraser, search data logs will be completely erased and Yahoo because of its shorter retention period."

Arnold is not inaccurate to suggest that this may have something to do with concern about the government stepping in if search engines don’t act, but I would bet that this has everything to do with Google dominance in search.

Competitors know that it’s not enough just to be better at search than Google, they also have to take away something that Google depends on for it’s strength, in this case the massive amount of personal data that they collect and the secrecy they maintain while doing it. By making user anonymity and personal data cleansing a competitive strength they can do something to Google that just being better at search won’t, attain a competitive advantage in the market and force Google to respond to them.

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