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.
SOURED RELATIONS: Program director Jennifer Liu said the move to Taipei was due to a ‘perceived lack of friendliness’ from Beijing Language and Culture University Harvard University is to relocate its summer Mandarin program from Beijing to National Taiwan University (NTU) starting next year, a student publication reported on Thursday last week. Run at Beijing Language and Culture University (BLCU) since 2004, the Harvard Beijing Academy is to become the Harvard Taipei Academy once it moves to Taiwan, Crimson magazine reported. Program director Jennifer Liu (劉力嘉) attributed the decision to a “perceived lack of friendliness” from the Chinese university, potentially due to shifting political winds. Liu told the magazine that BLCU in recent years had failed to provide a single dorm for the students or separate accommodation of
The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus yesterday issued a rebuttal to former US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, who said a fistfight in the Legislative Yuan might have been “provoked from the outside” to destabilize Taiwan. Rice made the comment in an online discussion about the AUKUS alliance of Australia, the UK and the US hosted by the Policy Exchange forum in London on Thursday. On mention of Taiwan, she was quoted by The Australian as predicting that Beijing would use paramilitary forces and acts of sabotage to destabilize the nation. “There was a fistfight in the Taiwanese parliament a few weeks ago
ADVANCING TECH: With revenue on target to reach US$15.4 billion, the Hsinchu-based chipmaker said it is looking to produce 3-nanometer chips later this year Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC, 台積電) yesterday announced plans to build a new plant in Japan next year to produce 22-nanometer and 28-nanometer chips in its latest effort to expand its global manufacturing footprint. The Japanese fab is to start operations in 2024, the world’s biggest contract chipmaker said, ending months of speculation. “We have received strong commitment to supporting this project from our customers and the Japanese government,” TSMC chief executive officer C.C. Wei (魏哲家) told a quarterly investors’ conference. “We believe the expansion of our global manufacturing footprint will enable us to better serve our customers’ needs and reach global talent,
KNOWN ISSUES: Fire safety issues were found in the 40-year-old building, which previously housed a theater and restaurants, in 2019, last year and May, an official said Forty-six people died and 41 were injured in a building fire that raged out of control for hours overnight in Kaohsiung, authorities said yesterday. Flames and smoke billowed from the lower floors of the 13-story Cheng Chung Cheng (城中城) building on Fubei Road in Yancheng District (鹽埕), as firefighters tried to douse the blaze from the street and aerial platforms. The death toll rose steadily through the day as rescue workers searched the combined commercial and residential building. By late afternoon, authorities said 32 bodies had been found, while a further 14 people who showed no signs of life were among 55