When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do? -- John Maynard Keynes

Monday, June 27, 2011

Buried in the fine print--not a strong case against Google

As much as Microsoft and others would like otherwise, it is not certain that the FTC's investigation will lead to legal action.

"Typically less than one out of every 10 investigations lead to enforcement. This investigation faces daunting odds," said David Balto, a former FTC policy director.

"The complaints presented to the FTC are from disgruntled advertisers, not consumers. That is not a strong foundation to an antitrust case." http://goo.gl/2a29q

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Google and Competition

Here’s what analysts, journalists and and others are saying about competition in search.

Industry Analysts

Danny Sullivan, Search Analyst, Search Engine Land

“Google’s offered more than web search for a very long time. Image searches, for example, stretches back to 2001. It is a search company. It is supposed to offer search products. It makes no sense to expect those search products to be merely listing web pages. If people are doing shopping searches on Google, it should evolve its product to have a specialized shopping tool. That’s what its users want.” (7/15/10)

Greg Sterling, Analyst, Search Engine Land

“I’m no free-markets zealot but I do believe that if courts and regulators start dictating how search algorithms should operate it starts to destroy search and its utility.” (2/25/10)

Paul Gallant, Research Analyst, MF Global

“We suspect the dynamism of the Internet services sector will lead the FTC to proceed cautiously in deciding whether to pursue a formal complaint against Google. Bing/Yahoo has recently taken share from Google search, and more fundamentally, new advertising models are emerging via apps, mobile services, and potential game-changing services like Facebook that individually or collectively could challenge Google’s leadership position.” (MF Global Research Note, 5/2/11)

Journalists and Commentators

Mike Masnick, Tech Dirt

“There Is No Such Thing As Search Neutrality, Because The Whole Point Of Search Is To Recommend What’s Best…‘Search neutrality’ is not a problem because ‘search neutrality’ makes no sense. The whole point of search is to be biased. The whole point of search is to recommend which sites fit your query best. ‘Search neutrality’ isn’t search at all. It’s a list of unsorted and totally useless links.” (6/18/10)

Financial Times – Editorial Page

“[‘Search neutrality’] is an impractical and unnecessary idea. As Marissa Mayer, Google’s head of search, argued in the FT, it is better for different search engines to compete vigorously with each other to produce the best and most relevant results. Google may be highly successful in search, but competition is only a free click away.” (7/15/10)

Harry McCracken, Time

“[Google] has every reason to do whatever it takes to preserve its algorithm’s long-standing reputation for excellence. If consumers start to regard it as anything less than good, it won’t be good for anybody—except other search engines.” (3/3/2011)

Ryan Singel, Wired

“No one would win if government regulators got access to Google’s algorithms, except maybe Bing. Hell, it’s not even clear if there was an agency that would be qualified to actually understand it, if they saw it.” (7/16/10)

Kathy Kristof, CBS MoneyWatch Contributor

“If the government does have some information about how Google is violating the nation’s antitrust laws, let’s hear it. […] Let’s be clear, market dominance does not equal antitrust. To have violated antitrust laws, you must be actively working to reduce free competition. When it comes to Internet search and advertising, Google is dominant because they’re better. Unless there is some evidence of coercion that we’ve yet to hear, this is not the same as the 1990s Microsoft antitrust case. […] Google, which now offers its own browser called Chrome, clearly does not pressure anyone to use either its browser nor its search engine when we access the web from our homes and offices. When I open up the Chrome web browser, it’s just as easy to get to Microsoft’s search engine, Bing, as it is to get to Google.” (6/23/11)

Sam Diaz, ZDNet

“Finally, in the aftermath of one of the most turbulent economic times in nearly 100 years, there’s some good news coming out of a sector that has already proven to resonate through national and global economies. And now the government wants to start poking around one of the big players because it might be too big? […] Is it un-American for the government to launch a probe of one of the leading companies in an industry that has the potential to put the U.S. back on the global map?" (6/24/11)

Policy and Legal Analysts

James Grimmelmann, Professor, New York University Law School

“Of course Google differentiates among sites – that’s why we use it. Systematically favoring certain types of content over others isn’t a defect for a search engine – it’s the point.” (January 2011 – Some Skepticism about Search Neutrality)

Berin Szoka and Adam Thierer, Progress & Freedom Foundation

“If government compels Google to surrender control of its platform, what other Internet-platform operator is safe from regulation to ensure “fairness”? Believers in limited government must stand united for high-tech property rights and digital speech freedoms for all players and platforms.” (National Review, 7/19/10)

Lauren Weinstein, Co-Founder, People for Internet Responsibility

“Recent calls for regulatory oversight of Google Search are way off-base, and – beyond the obvious First Amendment concerns – threaten to undermine Google’s efforts to provide the best possible natural (organic, algorithmic) search results via Google’s continuing work to avoid distortions in or gaming of those results.” (7/18/10)

Eric Goldman, Associate Professor, Santa Clara University School of Law

“[I]t’s difficult to imagine how regulatory intervention will improve the situation. First, regulatory solutions become a vehicle for normative views about what searchers should see – or should want to see. How should we select among these normative views? What makes one bias better than another?”(The Next Digital Decade, 2010)

Prof. Geoffrey Manne, Lewis & Clark Law School, and Director of the International Center for Law & Economics

“In the absence of evidence of Google’s harm to consumers, then, Leibowitz appears more interested in using Google as a tool in his and Rosch’s efforts to expand the FTC’s footprint. Advancing the commission’s “priority” to “find a pure Section Five case” seems to be more important than the question of whether Google is actually doing anything harmful.” (Main Justice, 6/13/11)

Gary Shapiro, CEO, Consumer Electronics Association (CEA)

“I think it’s ethically wrong [the potential antitrust investigation], and wrong for the future of the country. If there are laws, they should be clear and you should know if there’s a violation. But the laws are so ambiguous. The fact that our government is leading the charge against our best, most innovative companies in the world — we can’t afford as a country to play these games anymore. It’s just a tragedy.” (Politico Pro, 5/10/11)

Diane Katz, The Heritage Foundation

“[I]n seeking protection from competition, [companies] effectively become creatures of government—their success a product of regulation, not ingenuity or utility. Notwithstanding all the rhetoric about protecting ‘consumer choice’, such intervention inevitably harms consumers more than it helps.” (4/6/2011)

David Balto, Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress

“There is really not much evidence that consumers are harmed in any respect by Google’s conduct. To put this in perspective, you need to know that the FTC brings cases in about one of every 10 matters that they open.” (San Jose Mercury News, 6/23/11). “[Balto] says the big hurdle will be showing that Google’s search results were deliberately biased or harmed consumers in a significant way.” (The Wall Street Journal, 6/24/11)

Friday, June 24, 2011

Viva Google!

I know there are plenty of reasons why powerful vested private interests (say Facebook, Microsoft et al) might try to encourage  government witch-hunts or "fishing expeditions" against Google--but at the end of the day, I can't think of another large company that has been as transparent and user-focused. Hence I'm glad to see Google isn't "caving-in"--

Supporting choice, ensuring economic opportunity

6/24/2011 09:01:00 AM
At Google, we’ve always focused on putting the user first. We aim to provide relevant answers as quickly as possible—and our product innovation and engineering talent have delivered results that users seem to like, in a world where the competition is only one click away. Still, we recognize that our success has led to greater scrutiny. Yesterday, we received formal notification from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission that it has begun a review of our business. We respect the FTC’s process and will be working with them (as we have with other agencies) over the coming months to answer questions about Google and our services.

It’s still unclear exactly what the FTC’s concerns are, but we’re clear about where we stand. Since the beginning, we have been guided by the idea that, if we focus on the user, all else will follow. No matter what you’re looking for—buying a movie ticket, finding the best burger nearby, or watching a royal wedding—we want to get you the information you want as quickly as possible. Sometimes the best result is a link to another website. Other times it’s a news article, sports score, stock quote, a video or a map.
Read the full Google post here: http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2011/06/supporting-choice-ensuring-economic.html

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Wall Street profits while Main Street is still suffering

The Index of Small Business Optimism fell 0.3 points in May to 90.9--the third monthly decline in a row. The proximate cause is the fact that 1 in 4 owners still report weak sales as their top business problem.“Corporate profits may be at a record high, but businesses on Main Street are still scraping by,” said NFIB chief economist Bill Dunkelberg. “Washington is throwing misdirected policies at the problem, offering tax breaks for hiring and equipment investment, but acting surprised when they don’t bear any fruit. The failure to understand why small-business owners are not hiring or investing has resulted in a set of policies that have not been very effective, and Main Street is suffering. The icing on the cake: the growing debt, large deficits, threats of higher taxes, regulations being spewed out by state and local administrations, and the uncertainty of the new health care law—is it any wonder that optimism is down?”

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Yeah, if I owned stock in RIMM, I'd be selling too

A former insider at Research in Motion has revealed much about what is wrong with the company--http://www.businessinsider.com/ex-rim-employee-2011-6  -- excerpts:
The problem is that they brim with hubris regarding their success in the corporate market and are culturally blind to the gaping holes in their armor regarding consumer. They honestly think they understand consumer product, business, mentality, marketing - but they really don't. . . . Most of the design decisions at RIM are made by 50 something engineers, otherwise highly accomplished and credible in the field of engineering. But since they've lived most of their lives in the rural areas of Southern Ontario, and don't have any real background or even social sensibility for culture, design and such issues, they're woefully unqualified for the task of aesthetic judgment. . . .They don't speak the language of 'the creative process' and would probably laugh at anyone who did. . . . it is unacceptable in this day and age that a global brand should have the vast majority of its citizens derived from a section of a small province . . . . If Apple were to be based in Wisconsin, and drew most of their talent from the state area, I'm sure Wall St. would wonder what is going on. Again - to compound the problem - it's an issue that RIM isn't really aware of. Perhaps they are intellectually, but they don't 'get it', in this regard.

You fix the budget

Budget Puzzle: You Fix the Budget (courtesy the New York Times): You’re in charge of the nation’s finances--some of your options have more short-term savings and some have more long-term savings. When you have closed the budget gaps for both 2015 and 2030, you are done. Make your own plan, then share it online.  http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2010/11/13/weekinreview/deficits-graphic.html

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

General government gross debt (% of GDP)

I knew the U.S. situation was bad--but I didn't know it was this bad
(data drawn from International Monetary Fund, April 2011 World Economic Outlook):

Thursday, June 9, 2011

How bad is it for BlackBerry? Read this--

62% of smartphones in use in the US are either Android (Google) or iOS (Apple). The sum a year ago was 37%. There are about 20 million iPhone users and 27 million Android users in the US today. A year ago there were 12 and 6 million respectively. RIM’s (BlackBerry) US user base peaked at 22 million in Sept 2010. It is now 19 million and dropping.
During April 475,000 people abandoned their Blackberries.
Android and iOS gained 3 million users in April. One million switched from other smartphones and 2 million switched from non-smartphones. http://www.asymco.com/2011/06/06/peak-rim/

Follow johnmpoole on Twitter

APPLE hopes to break ground next year--move in by 2015

I have a lot of respect for Steve Jobs and Apple, so I was glad to see posted on YouTube, Steve's presentation before the Cupertino City Council of APPLE's plans for its new center of operations-- hope to break ground next year, move in by 2015--
Follow johnmpoole on Twitter

Monday, June 6, 2011

Soros is selling his gold — should you too? Matthew Lynn's London Eye - MarketWatch

Soros is selling his gold — should you too? Matthew Lynn's London Eye - MarketWatch: "“When interest rates are low we have conditions for asset bubbles to develop, and they are developing at the moment,” he told his audience at the Davos conference. “The ultimate asset bubble is gold.”"

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Recommend you divert your course

What follows is the transcript of an actual radio conversation monitored by a lifeboat squadron off the coast of British Columbia in October 1995:

Naval voice: “Please divert your course 15 degrees to the North to avoid a collision.”

Civilian voice: “Recommend you divert your course 15 degrees South to avoid a collision.”

Naval voice: “This is the Captain of a U.S. Navy ship. I say again, divert your course.”

Civilian voice: “No. I say again, divert your course.”

Naval voice: “This is the aircraft carrier Enterprise. We are a large warship of the U.S. Navy. Divert your course now!”

Civilian voice: “This is a lighthouse. Your call.”

The Big Picture

Financial Crisis - The Telegraph

JohnTheCrowd.com | The Sailing Website

Craig Newmark - craigconnects