Siri may infringe old Excite patents

I was watching this Bloomberg video the other day featuring Shawn Carolan, the venture capitalist who backed the Siri electronic personal assistant startup then sold it to Apple. His was the closest I’d heard to a technical explanation of how Siri works and it surprised me because it sounded a lot like technology I remembered from years ago at Excite, the long-defunct search engine.  Please look at the video and then meet me in the next paragraph.  The part that excited me (no pun intended) is about four minutes in.

Okay, he said they used linguistic techniques to map blocks of words against 10 possible domains of expertise to figure out what the heck you are asking Siri to do, with the real […]

By |January 14th, 2012|2012|73 Comments

Prediction 6: Thompson's no Yahoo

Let me be clear about this just in case my clever headline makes no sense: I think the Yahoo board punted by hiring Scott Thompson, who is either a stooge for Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang or a convenient placeholder until the company can be sold.

I have nothing against Thompson, who did an able, if very vanilla, job at PayPal, but there is nothing — nothing — that distinguishes him as a new media executive. With a wildly dysfunctional outfit like Yahoo, he’ll be in over his head from the first day. I hope for his sake there’s a golden parachute rip cord available for pulling.

His best hope — and it isn’t much of a hope […]

By |January 4th, 2012|2012|36 Comments

Ballmer's Last Stand

Moving sucks. Our furniture arrived late last week so I’ve been off the clock for awhile and there is a lot of catching-up to do.  We’ll start with Microsoft and Windows 8, which I’ll argue are going to be formidable competitors in the tablet space, primarily because it’s that or start spending all that cash on diversified investments to turn Microsoft into a Berkshire Hathaway. This is probably Ballmer’s last stand as a high tech CEO.

It was entirely by coincidence that I interviewed both Jon Shirley and Bill Gates in their last weeks as Microsoft CEO. In Shirley’s case it was his final day and I’ve never seen a guy more eager to get out […]

By |September 19th, 2011|2011|85 Comments

What's a Yahoo to Do?

This is my promised follow-up to How Not to Run Yahoo, so I suppose this should have been titled How to Run Yahoo, but I’m too much of a smart-ass for that.  I spoke to a bunch of smart people (past and present Yahoos) some of whom even allowed me to print their names, and here’s our consensus view on what the next Yahoo CEO really has to do to turn the company around. I’m sorry it all sounds so negative, but it is toward a positive end, remember.

Yahoo has a bureaucracy problem that I attribute to former CEO Terry Semel, who hired legions of vice presidents to insulate the former Hollywood studio boss from […]

By |September 11th, 2011|2011|60 Comments

How Not to Run Yahoo

I seem to be writing a lot of these What the heck was that? columns explaining recent news events. This time it is the firing of Carol Bartz as CEO of Yahoo. I’m not here to defend Bartz, whom I would have fired long ago (or more probably not hired in the first place), but I want to make the point that for all her failings, Bartz was mainly fired for being a hardass.  It’s not what she did or didn’t do as much as her style while doing it.

Carol Bartz is, like beer, an acquired taste.  I like her, but she has a long history of bothering sensitive geeks. The old-timers at Autodesk (a […]

By |September 8th, 2011|2011|93 Comments