What would you do with $4 billion? If you’re an automotive enthusiast you could buy 363,600 Nissan Versas or 22,100 Bentley Continental Flying Spurs. Always fancied owning your own airline? You could buy 68 brand new Boeing 737-600 jetliners. Love bling? How about over two million 18-Karat Gold & Stainless Steel DateJust Rolexes? (Hand them out as tips to the night club waitress and the valet parking attendants to really impress your date.) You could even marry Kim Kardashian 400 times over. However, if you’re Steve Ballmer of Microsoft you lose that $4 billion dollars each and every year doing nothing other than operating the Bing search engine.
The Reverse Midas Touch
Bill Gates’ bizarro mirror universe doppleganger with the Reverse Midas Touch has made a career out of squandering the torrent of profits generated by Microsoft’s operating systems and Office Suite by enthusiastically engaging in complete facepalm epic fails such as Kin and Zune. However, nowhere is the Touch more blatantly obvious than in Bing, the search engine that was supposed to humble Google and instead turned out to be a money-sucking vortex of galactic proportions. Bing may be the most costly attempt to dethrone The Big G, but it is not fair to place the blame of failing to crack the Googleopoly on Steve alone, as the road to search engine hegemony is littered with the corpses of many failed would-be Google-killers.
Real-Time Intelligent Search
There are some observers who maintain that the conventional search engine interface of typing a phrase into a text box is going the way of the dodo bird, analog television and the Pax Americana. Search is becoming integrated into online activity and behavior so that content is suggested as a result of what you’re doing anyway, rather than specifically searching for. Twitter is applying this concept with its Top People/News feature where a link to a person or news story is provided at the top of your results, and it’s paradoxically not a tweet at all, but an algorithm which makes a determination of the top retweeted topics in that field.
Siri Is the First Great Agent
The “agent” who works silently in the background learning from your behavior and intelligently suggesting your next move has been expected to be the next step in computing for decades but so far all attempts have been abject failures that propose a link to Polish hard rock bands when you’re seeking to buy metal polish. The implementation of the Siri voice-activated personal assistant on the iPhone 4S seems to be the first legitimate candidate for the title of “the first great agent,” since setting up the function to be computed on Apple’s servers not only allows the data-crunching to happen much faster than on the mobile device itself, but it can also compile a massive database of queries in order to perfect itself. Siri will be getting smarter by the day and within a year or two can be expected to compare to today’s version as Russian mathematics genius Grigory Perelman compares to a grade school arithmetic student.
Google’s chairman and former chief executive Eric Schmidt actually admitted to the U.S. Senate antitrust subcommittee that Siri was a significant development that could pose a threat to his core business. Soon, the current web surfing prerequisite of manually typing search queries may be seen to be as nostalgic as reading a book by turning pages or doing the laundry by beating it on a river rock. Authors can look to research assistants providing references in real-time as they merrily write along, and the rest of us will speak to our communications devices to find everything from pizzerias to the latest update in faster-than-light neutrinos.