Stand-up comedians have a saying that "you're only as good as your last gig." The same goes for computer technology. What you have to assume is that someone somewhere has a business plan which involves, er, attracting all your customers. \nTo date, there are only two known defensive strategies. One consists of "locking in" said customers so that they have to be very determined to go elsewhere. This is the Microsoft Way. The other is to make your next product even more sensational than its predecessor. \nTo date, few companies have managed this trick. \nThe US$64 billion question at the moment is whether Google, the world's favorite search engine, will manage to pull it off. \nIts spectacular success revealed that Internet searching is a very big business. Something like 550 million search requests are entered every day worldwide (245 million of them in the US and 77 percent through Google). \nGoogle has shown that selling advertising based on searches can be very lucrative. And it is estimated by industry watchers that the annual paid-placement advertising revenue generated by Web searches will reach about US$7 billion by 2007 (as compared with US$3 billion last year). \nIf Google's current share of searching continues, that means the company could look forward to annual revenues of nearly US$5.5 billion in three years' time. \nAh, that magic word, "if"... The great thing about capitalism is that the prospect of annual revenues of US$5.5 billion tends to concentrate minds. So far, in relation to Google, those minds have been focused in two directions. \nThe first involves trying to get a slice of Google's action. The company is heading for a stock-market flotation this year and -- if industry rumors are to be believed -- this could be the biggest thing since Netscape went public on Aug. 9, 1995. \nNetscape shares were conservatively priced at US$28, opened at US$71 and went as high as US$74 in the most frantic day's trading since the Wall Street crash. \nSomething similar could happen with Google. And this, in turn, might have wider implications, because it was the Netscape launch that triggered the technology boom/bubble. \nIt was what awakened non-techies to the notion that there might be money in that Internet thingummy. \nGiven that the stock market is slowly shaking off the rueful technophobia that has afflicted it since 2001, could Google's flotation triggers another avalanche? \nThe second direction in which search-related revenue concentrates minds leads to the quest for technology that is better than Google's. \nA lot of brainpower is being focused on this question. \nSome of us are old enough to remember when AltaVista was the best search engine there ever had been. Then one day Google was launched and we never used Alta-Vista again. But all that means is that Google is the new AltaVista, and the question is: what lies around the corner? \nThere's no doubt that Google represented a great advance. But there is no such thing as perfection in this business. Surveys indicate that almost a quarter of users don't find what they're looking for in the first set of links returned by a search engine. \nThat's partly because, in the words of MIT's Technology Review newsletter, "the precious needles of information we seek are buried under a haystack that grows by some 60 terabytes every day. [A terabyte is 1024 gigabytes.] And it's why fierce competition in the search industry is certain to continue, especially as companies implement a host of new technologies, such as natural-language processing and machine learning." \nAlready, there is interesting potential competition for Google. \nThere's Teoma (www.teoma.com), for example, which uses the existence of subject-based communities to home in on an answer to a search query. Then there's Mooter (www.mooter.com), which uses ideas from psychology, software and neural networks to create a ranking algorithm that learns from the user as a search progresses. \nAnd there are several research efforts aimed at finding ways of searching the "deep Web" -- that is the huge reserve of documents buried in corporate and official databases which only become published Web pages if a particular search query asks for them. \nFurthermore, of course, there is Microsoft. There is always Microsoft. Bill Gates has made it clear that he sees searching as Microsoft's business. \nThe company has a huge research and development effort devoted to it. \nAnd it plans to use its, er, "infrastructural advantage" [monopoly] to build natural language searching into "Longhorn" -- the next release of its operating system, due next year or 2006.
SECRET OUT: Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung yesterday accidentally revealed that the infections occurred at the ministry’s Taoyuan General Hospital The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) yesterday reported the fifth COVID-19 case in a cluster infection at a Taoyuan hospital, where four other medical workers were confirmed to have been infected over the past week. The latest case is a nurse who had tested negative on Tuesday last week, Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the CECC, told a news conference. However, on Thursday, she developed symptoms, such as nasal congestion and a cough, and a second test yesterday found that she was infected, Chen said. She is the head nurse of a ward where two
VIGILANCE: While two of the cases are family members of a nurse, there is no sign of community spread and the source of infection is identifiable, the CECC said The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) yesterday reported four new domestic COVID-19 cases associated with a cluster infection at a Taoyuan hospital. Since the first case was identified on Tuesday last week, five healthcare workers — two doctors and three nurses — at the Ministry of Health and Welfare’s Taoyuan General Hospital have tested positive for the virus. Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, said that two of the four new cases are the husband and daughter of a nurse (case No. 863) who had earlier been confirmed to have COVID-19. The husband (case No. 864)
Don Quijote, the biggest discount store in Japan, is opening its first store in Taiwan today. The three-story Don Don Donki store in Taipei’s Ximending (西門町) area, which operates 24 hours a day, has already created 400 jobs, the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) said in a press release. Many Taiwanese, including Taipei Deputy Mayor Vivian Huang (黃珊珊), consider a trip to Don Quijote an essential stop in Japan. “I have been to Don Quijote at least 10 times myself,” Huang said yesterday at a news conference announcing the store’s opening. “They are rendering an important service, because we cannot travel
CHANGE OF GUARD: Hsiao Bi-khim’s attendance at Joe Biden’s inauguration will come as a boost to those in Taiwan who feared that the new US administration would be less friendly than that of Donald Trump to the nation Representative to the US Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴) is to attend US President Joe Biden’s swearing-in ceremony at the US Capitol after she was invited by the US Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, a news release issued by the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO) in the US said last night. The news came as a surprise as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had been reticent about the matter, while Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) members had accused the Democratic Progressive Party administration of hedging its bets on the Republican Party. Asked about when Hsiao received the invitation, the ministry did not