Tag Archives: Microsoft

PhotoSynth: Making the World…

…One snapshot at a time


A brief (highly subjective) list of internet milestones:

  • 1980s: newsgroups and email & packet-switched internetworking
  • 1990s: multi-user virtuality, streaming media, dotcom 1.0
  • 2000s: people (finally) embracing social media

Anyway, you get the idea. Fast forward through Web 2.0 to get to 2007, and this — Microsoft’s PhotoSynth.

A bit of perspective: when I studied computational approaches to vision in the 80s, ‘state-of-the-art’ meant software that could get a cruise missile somewhere near Red Square, given a decent topographic map. PhotoSynth can build 3D models of Red Square (or anywhere else on the planet) from snapshots on Flickr, aggregate and process tags & other metadata to build a semantic web describing what’s there, then navigate the whole kaboodle in real time on any recentish networked PC. Google Earth: roll over and play dead. At least for the next few weeks, Microsoft owns the coolest tech on the block, bar none: some important part of the future looks like this. The original post and other options for viewing are here: just watch the video all the way through. You can see what the BBC have been doing with this tech over at their How We Built Britain site.

Paranthetically, note the presence of the 90’s poster child of infinite zoom — a Mandelbrot set — at the top-left of the SeaDragon demo image used in the video. Does the demo go anywhere near it? No way. In 2007 we no longer use trippy fractals to show off the bewildering wonderfulness of our tech. Instead, we are taken on a zoom into a car ad to show how it’s possible to embed tech specs in a teeny corner of the image without pop-ups. How times change. Wasn’t there a moment there when we were dreaming of more than a better car ad? Maybe not at Microsoft. Sigh.

[via Tim, who sent me a link to the early Java proof-of-concept last year, and a link to this video yesterday]

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Google Marches Onward

Google continues its onslaught into Microsoft’s territory with the launch of a spreadsheet application.

Why is this interesting? Well, for a start it has significant implications for advertisers — after all, you can’t advertise in Windows, can you (although we suspect that Microsoft’s ‘Live’ offerings in the next version of Windows will be edging closer to that)? As ZDNet points out:

What better application could you think of to embed ads into than one that people use for budgeting and price comparisons?

Google will be watching carefully who uses Spreadsheet and what they use it for. Once the company has proved the application and gathered enough usage data, then it’ll launch an AdWords option for Spreadsheet and start to test its viability as a vehicle for contextual ads.

Then there was the rather prescient letter in The Economist a while back by a Mr Alan Tobey:

Google seems to be following the same line Ronald Reagan took with the Russians in the 1980s (“Is Google the new Microsoft?”, May 13th). Reagan speeded up the break-up of the Soviet Union by forcing it to spend beyond its means on weaponry to defend against perceived, but actually unreal, threats such as the Star Wars programme.

In much the same way, Google is throwing up many cheap-but-flashy initiatives that force Microsoft to spend huge sums in order to contain perceived, but probably illusory, market threats. Can we not anticipate the same outcome: the break-up of software’s acknowledged evil empire and the emergence of its captive technologies into the world of fair competition?

Let’s see.

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Microsoft Goes Massive

And we thought this in-game advertising thing was just a fad…

Not so, says Mr Gates. According to the Wall Street Journal Microsoft is planning to buy in-game advertising start up Massive. According to sources quoted in the article, the deal is thought to be valued between at $200 million to $400 million:

Microsoft’s planned purchase highlights a belief among game-industry executives that videogames could become a large new medium for advertising. Major media companies have similarly begun to increase their investments in game-related media to ensure they stay abreast of consumers’ tastes. This week, Viacom Inc. paid $102 million to acquire Xfire Inc., a start-up that operates an instant-messaging service that connects gamers over the Internet. Last September, News Corp. agreed to pay $650 million to acquire IGN Entertainment Inc., a company that operates a collection of Web sites for game enthusiasts.”

And, of course, Microsoft have a vested interest in the success of the in-game advertising medium.

Microsoft is pitching in-game advertising on Xbox Live online-videogame service as a new source of revenue for videogame publishers such as Electronic Arts Inc. of Redwood City, Calif., and Ubisoft. The Massive acquisition is also part of a broader attempt by the Redmond, Wash., software giant to grab a bigger piece of the online advertising boom that’s fueling the growth of Google Inc. and others. Microsoft has struggled to take control of a larger piece of that market as Google extends its lead in the business of linking online ads to Internet search results.

Advertisers spent about $56 million on advertisements in videogames last year, up from $34 million the prior year. But a recent report by the Boston research firm Yankee Group predicts that the in-game advertising market will reach more than $700 million by 2010. Yankee Group also predicts the number of games with advertising in them will double by the end of this year to more than 200.

MIT has more highlights from the article.

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Microsoft Leak

“We knew search would be important, but through Google’s focus they’ve gained a tremendously strong position.”

Slashdot reports today on a leaked memo from Microsoft which demonstrates just how much the tech giant has been caught on the back foot over online advertising. Even if it proves to be false, Microsoft have admitted as much through recent iniatives to invest in search advertising – see previous post.

The post reads:

daria42 writes “An e-mail memo sent from Microsoft chairman Bill Gates to top execs at Microsoft has been leaked, revealing the executive wants his company to hurriedly change its focus and start to tap online advertising and services as new revenue sources. In the e-mail, Gates cites another, earlier memo, sent from MS exec Ray Ozzie, in which Ozzie also warns MS of the importance of focusing on the online medium. ‘It’s clear that if we fail to do so, our business as we know it is at risk,’ Ozzie wrote. ‘We must respond quickly and decisively. We should’ve been leaders with all our web properties in harnessing the potential of Ajax, following our pioneering work in OWA (Outlook Web Access),’ he continued. ‘We knew search would be important, but through Google’s focus they’ve gained a tremendously strong position.’

More from the leak on ZDnet.

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Stop Press

Microsoft to patent technology which charges users who choose to skip ads.

MIT’s adverblog reports that

Microsoft has applied for a patent for control-based content pricing, which describes a scenario in which viewers are charged higher fees if they skip commercials or replay sports highlights.

Microsoft’s patent application reads:

In an implementation of control-based content pricing, a content server distributes media content to a client device in response to a request from the client device to receive the media content. A valuation application allocates a cost to the client device when the media content is distributed to the client device. The content server receives a view control input from the client device that indicates how the media content is to be rendered and the valuation application adjusts the cost according to the view control input and how the media content is to be rendered.

MIT picked up on the story from TechDirt via AdJab.

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Microsoft Enters Search Ad Market

Playing catch-up with the likes of Google and Yahoo!, Microsoft unveils its own system for selling search-based advertising.

Currently, the ads on Microsoft’s MSN’s search engine have been sold by Yahoo! The company now intends that all of its ads will be sold in-house by Spring next year. Microsoft founder Bill Gates will demonstrate his commitment to online advertising as a sector when he opens the inaugural conference of the UK’s internet advertising industry next month (as reported in The Guardian).

Last year online overtook radio advertising in terms of overall share, reaching a level of nearly 4% in the UK – the Internet Advertising Bureau says it is on track to overtake the market size of outdoor by the end of 2007. Last year spending on ad searches, pop-ups and other forms of online advertising rocketed 62% year-on-year to hit £653.3m in 2004, from £407.8m in 2003.

The New York Times reports that the search-based advertising system to be used by MSN aims to improve on the services already offered by Google and Yahoo! by allowing marketers to target users based on their sex, age and location. Microsoft already owns a lot of demographic information on its users gleaned via services such as hotmail and its Passport identity service. Google and Yahoo! only allow a limited targeting of search ads by location, with Google arguing that it doesn’t need demographic data to direct its ads because Web searchers can directly indicate what they may want to buy through their keyword search queries. Tim Armstrong, vice president for advertising at Google, also plays the privacy card: “We are very heavy on user privacy. So our way of targeting advertising relies heavily on what we know about the content people are looking for.” Google already takes into account other factors such as the time of day and the geographical location of the user.

Microsoft also believes it has another advantage over Google: the building of relationships with web site owners, many of whom are users of its software and online services. But Google ads is already an appealing option for small businesses looking to raise their profile online in a cost effective way. It remains to be seen if Microsoft can achieve the same resonance with these entrepreneurs that Google has.

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Bill Gates May Profit from iPod Success

Apple may be forced to pay Microsoft royalties for every iPod it sells.

Apparently, Microsoft has beaten Apple in the race to file a crucial patent on technology used in the portable music players. Although Apple introduced in the iPod in November 2001, it did not file a provisional patent application until July 2002 and a full application was filed only in October that year. In the meantime, Microsoft submitted an application in May 2002 to patent some key elements of music players, including song menu software.

There are a number of portable music players on the market but the iPod dominates, accounting for three out of every four portable music players sold in the US and contributing almost one third of Apple’s total sales. Piper Jaffray, the US analysts, predicts that Apple will sell 25 million iPods this year, bringing the total sold in the four years since launch to 35 million.

News of the dispute over the patent emerged – surprise surprise – on a blog, Appleinsider, which has run spoilers on Apple products in the past. It could lead to Apple having to pay a licence fee for the technology of up to $10 per machine.

A spokesperson said Apple would continue to try and get its patent recognised and could take the case to the patent office’s appeals board. The company said in a statement, “Apple invented and publicly released the iPod interface before the Micosoft application was filed.”

Micrsoft is also taking on Google in the courts. Microsoft launched a lawsuit against the search engine last month, accusing it of poaching a top executive to head a new research laboratory in China.

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