Archive for February 2010
- The growth of Chinese search giant Baidu is an indicator that fully localised and tailored content and offerings have great traction with local audiences
- This trend is already driving an increase in the use of specialist searches … Look at how Farecast is now integrated into Bing for example, or how Flightstats is now integrated into Google.
- Search does not necessarily have to begin with a keyword, but could start instead with a click or a touch. Take a look at Retrievr. Start drawing a picture in the box and see what happens. This is certainly search without the need for typing in keywords
- search technology has advanced greatly in recent years. The recent launch of Microsoft Live Labs’ Pivot has given us a taste of what we can expect to see in the future
This really got me thinking about where search might go in the future and as my mind wandered I realised that as the amount of data that we collect about ourselves increases so too will the need and the desire to search it. The amount of electronic data that exists about each and every person is increasing and in the near future I fully expect that we are going to be able to store personal data such as:
- A history of our location (in fact Google Latitude already offers this facility)
- Recordings of all our phone conversations
- Health information history (weight, blood pressure etc…)
- Energy usage
- Spending history
- What films we watch, what radio stations we listen to
- Voting history
Of course, most of this stuff is already stored somewhere but crucially we don’t have easy access to it. My utilities supplier knows how much electricity I’m using but if I want to know for myself I have to go and dig through my statements (assuming I have kept them). Similarly my doctor probably has ready access to all of my health records, my bank knows exactly what I have spent my money on, my cable supplier knows what I watch on TV and my mobile phone supplier probably knows exactly where I am and where I’ve been for the past few years. Strange then that none of this electronic information is available to me in a way that I can really make use of it; after all, its MY information. Its MY data. I created it.
That is set to change. As technologies mature and customers become more technically cognizant they will demand more access to the data that companies hold about them. The companies themselves will realise the benefit that they derive from giving users what they want and will embrace ways of providing it. As a result the amount of data that we store about ourselves is going to increase exponentially and the desire to search and derive value from that data is going to grow with it; we are about to enter the era of the “personal datastore” and we will want, and need, to search through it in order to make sense of it all.
Its interesting then that today when we think of search we think of search engines and yet in these personal datastores we’re referring to data that search engines can’t touch because WE own it and we (hopefully) choose to keep it private. Someone, I know not who, is going to lead in this space by making it easy for us to search our data and retrieve information that we have either forgotten or maybe didn’t even know in the first place. We will learn new things about ourselves and about our habits; we will share these findings with whomever we choose; we will compare what we discover with others; we will collaborate for mutual benefit and, most of all, we will educate ourselves as to how to live our lives better. Search will be the means to that end, it will enable us to make sense of the wealth of information that we will collect day in day out.
The future of search is personal, why would we be interested in anything else?
Anyone that reads this and has a passing interest in Windows phones won’t have failed to notice all the rumour and hype in the online technical press lately about what is coming in Windows Mobile 7 which is expected to be announced at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in just over a week’s time. Most of the rumours talk about new UIs, hardware specs, project pink & Zune integration amongst other things however I have managed to convince myself that there will be one other important feature and I’ll explain it here.
In March 2008 Microsoft announced their Live Mesh incubation project which is currently available for use at http://www.mesh.com. One aspect of Mesh that got largely overlooked was that it was intended to be a platform for others to build upon rather than just being a product in its own right and one of the key scenarios that that was meant to enable was the syncing of information between your various devices. Since then news about Mesh has been thin on the ground other than the news about Mesh being merged with Windows Live and I believe we’re now about to see why; I believe that one of the key technologies in Windows Mobile 7 will be the inclusion the technology formerly known as Mesh, delivered under the banner of Windows Live.
I’ll give you a few reasons why I believe this to be the case:
- Windows Live wave 4 is just around the corner and we’re already pretty certain that one of the newest features is going to be “Devices”. Devices would of course include phones!
- In his opening keynote at PDC09 Microsoft’s CTO, Ray Ozzie, mentioned that “Windows Mobile and Windows Live news will be coming at Mix10”. Mix10 is now just around the corner as well and I don’t think its a coincidence that Ozzie mentioned them both in the same sentence.
- Microsoft need Windows Mobile 7 to be revolutionary if its going to fire the imagination of developers and of the phone buying public; there needs to be something in there new that no-one else is doing yet. Sync technology from Windows Live could (and should) be it.
- Windows Live needs to encompass more than just Windows on our desktop and laptop computers. Integrating Windows Mobile and Windows Live would be in line with Microsoft’s “3 screens and a cloud” strategy.
Of course, we should also consider the benefits that this would bring; chiefly I expect that we will be able to sync files from SkyDrive down to our phones. That’s one feature on its own and it is huge – don’t underestimate what it would mean to be able to sync media and office documents from the cloud to our mobile devices. Computers are only useful when they have data to work with and usually that data comes in the form of files; Microsoft have already cornered the market in giving you access to your files on your computer and now they’ll try to do the same in the cloud and on your phone. For more ideas of what could be possible go read my post Live Mesh, Windows Live and other Microsoft services from February 2009, I think the era of the “personal mainframe” as I call it in that post is upon us!
So there we have it, my big prediction for Windows Mobile 7 is that it will contain sync technology from Windows Live. This blog post is based on part evidence and part wishful thinking; nonetheless I’m convinced that a tie-in between Windows Live and Windows Mobile is on its way and I suspect we may know more in about 8 days time.
I don’t usually feel compelled to draw attention to a website that is so undeniably stupid that whomever is responsible deserves to be sent away to join the circus but when that website is provided by your own government and said website is preventing me from paying the taxes that I am legally obliged to pay then I feel duty bound to point it out.
That was the situation today when I logged on to Her Majesty’s Customs & Revenue (HMRC) online service at https://online.hmrc.gov.uk to pay my quarterly tax return. I was prompted to enter answers to some shared secrets in order that my identity could be proven in the future; upon entering those answers here is what I was presented with (note that I have changed the answers to protect my privacy but the problem is still the same):
Let’s review exactly what is wrong here. I am required to supply answers that contain both letters and numbers:
But here’s the thing. The names of my first and last school do not actually have any numbers in them. Do you understand that HMRC? Your stupid rules prevent me from truthfully answering your questions. Hence I have the option of either (a) making up fake answers to those questions (which negates the point of having them in the first place) or (b) not paying my tax return. I am assuming that (b) might be considered a tad naughty (some might say illegal) therefore what choice do I have?
I will inform HMRC by linking to this blog post and hopefully someone with an ounce of intelligence might be able to fix it. Watch this space!