Debunking Microsoft Search Rumors

Spencer shows scorn for Powerset speculation and hears talk about the old "snorage" days.

Spencer gets lots of tips from wishful thinkers, dreamers and conspiracy theorists. He loves them all, mainly because they are at least good for a chuckle in an otherwise mundane workday.

Sometimes they are so preposterous they provide scorn-worthy fodder for Rumor Central. And besides, the Wired One loves to deflate the profound reasoning of all those earnest conspiracy theorists who want the world to take them seriously.

Some of the sillier speculation swirling around this week is about what Microsoft would be able to do to Google if it would only buy out search startup Powerset.

Powerset is a semantic or contextual search provider, offering a departure from the generalized keyword search strategies espoused by so many search vendors these days. The consensus is that with Powerset, Microsoft would have a shot at taking down Google in search. The Sagacious Gato thinks this is horse hockey, but he decided to demolish this theory point by point.

First, Powerset can only index content from Wikipedia and the open-source repository Freebase. Google indexes, well, the entire Web. It took 10 years for Google to develop, perfect and extend its search technology. Even if Microsoft grabbed the startup and threw all of its financial and data center resources behind it, it would still take years for Microsoft to catch-let alone kill-Google.

Powerset might help Microsoft take some search share, but it's doubtful that a majority of the millions of Google users would abandon their favorite search engine overnight. And Yahoo doesn't seem inclined to buy such a company while it's in the middle of rewiring its own search platform to open it up for third-party development.

The Learned Lynx also thinks it is interesting that some people have to believe that Microsoft will find some technology-a kind of search kryptonite-that will allow it to kill off Google and dominate search the way it has become preeminent in so many other markets. This is a game that Microsoft might ultimately lose.

But Google could indeed soon have something in common with Microsoft, which has been battling for years with European Union regulators over a variety of issues. Now the EU's top data protection regulator is warning that Google's Street View map and satellite image service may run afoul of the EU's privacy laws if the service is launched in Europe.

The EU, with recent memories of World War invasions, military occupations, deportations and secret police dossiers, takes the privacy of its citizens very seriously. It doesn't like the idea of every Tom, Dick and Marjorie going on the Web to take a peek at how the tomatoes are growing in their neighbor's back yard.

The Peripatetic Puss also got a laugh at the comments of Compellent CEO and founder Phil Soran at his company's recent C-Drive partner and customer conference in Minneapolis earlier in May. Soran talked about the "good old days" in data storage business, when things were simple. SANs (storage area networks) were a mere gleam in the eyes of storage architects, and virtualization was just a wild theory.

"Back in those days, you just had your data and a disk or tape to store it on," Soran said. "Direct-attached storage was pretty boring, I guess, to some people. In fact, they used to call it 'snorage.'"

This set the Grizzled Grimalkin's whiskers twitching. "When did they stop calling it that?" he quipped Kattily.

Spencer F. Katt

Spencer F. Katt

Spencer F. Katt, the Whiskered Wonder, has been the mascot and tipster extraordinaire for eWEEK and its predecessor print publication PC Week since 1984. The Gadabout Gatto makes the rounds of...