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Thursday, September 25, 2003  

Tech Talk

  • Yahoo introduces product search engine
  • Yahoo has beaten Microsoft out of the starting gate with an innovation to Web searching. Its new search engine will focus on locating products specifically. Currently, a search for a product on any search engine is likely to bring up allusions to anything having to do with the name of the product, wasting the searcher's time.

    LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Internet media company Yahoo Inc. (YHOO.O), broadening its efforts in the red-hot search services market, on Tuesday rolled out a new search platform that lets users find products, compare prices and buy from different merchants.

    ``(Search is) becoming the most efficient way for consumers to find products,'' said Rob Solomon, the general manager of Yahoo Shopping.

    Product search is an increasingly competitive market on the Internet, with engines like MySimon and PriceGrabber vying to be the launch point for consumer purchases, generating revenue through commissions or other fees when users click one of their links to buy from a retailer.

    . . .The new products search is directly integrated into Yahoo's main search engine and features a full range of products from across the Internet, from computers to camping gear, with search results sorted by relevance.

    The ability to do streamlined product searches is a result of Yahoo's purchase of Inktomi and integration of its algorithms. The advertising component, which results in targeted ads, is handled by Overture, which Yahoo is in the process of buying.

    Still, analysts are watching Microsoft closely. It is acknowledging plans to revamp and improve MSN Search.

    Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT) control over nearly everyone's Internet experiences may get even more comprehensive when plans to develop its own Web browser come to fruition.

    The Redmond, Washington-based software giant has acknowledged that it is determined to create its own search technology, a move that suggests there soon could be a major shakeup of the booming search-engine market. The revelation also may provide some clues to Microsoft's nascent next-generation platforms, meaning it is likely search capability will be a major feature of the company's yet more-integrated upcoming products.

    "We are aware that there is a huge opportunity industry-wide to raise the bar with regards to relevancy of search queries, and our investment and commitment with MSN Search is to take that challenge head on," Microsoft spokesperson Amy Petty told NewsFactor.

    The software colossus is expected to debut its own independent search engine as a product integrated with the new Windows operating system, due in 2005.

  • Small company takes lead in pen computing
  • Microsoft also has competition in the still largely unplumbed field of handwriting recognition. Pen & Internet, which has sometimes done business with Microsoft, has moved ahead in developing pen computing.

    The company has two main products. The first, riteMail, is a software-service combo that supports pen communications on a variety of platforms. As the name implies, it'll let you send handwritten messages to friends, which can be viewed in pretty much any e-mail client (Outlook, Outlook Express, Eudora, Lotus Notes, Netscape Mail, as well as Web-based e-mail systems such as AOL Mail, Hotmail, Yahoo Mail, and others). It can also be used as a straight note-taking app. And a desktop component will attempt to turn your scrawl into text.

    RiteMail can be used on any Windows computer; there are also riteMail clients for both Palm and Pocket PC operating systems, as well as a Java-based edition that allows messages to be sent from any Java-enabled browser.

    If you're using it on a PC, you'll obviously need some sort of input device. RiteMail supports all the usual suspects, such as Wacom tablets and pen-sensitive screens. The company also has a deal with Fingersystem USA to offer its ritePen software with Fingersystem's i-pen Mouse, a USB pen that doubles as a mouse.

    . . .Pen & Internet's second app, ritePen, is a handwriting recognition and pen utility software package that can run on any Windows machine or replace the Tablet PC's recognizer. The company claims its recognizer works better than Microsoft's (which is built atop older Pen & Internet technology). That claim seems reasonable enough. Since the ritePen software sells for $19.95, the risk isn't too great if you don't like it.

    David Coursey, writing for ZDNet's Anchordesk, gives both programs good reviews, with a caveat. He believes he, an awkward left-hander, may not be the best person to judge Pen & Internet's applications. Coursey further notes the apps are not really the focus of the company. Marketing its research and development is.

    Also, as I said previously, Pen & Internet is more a technology company than a product company. These products are showcases for what the company would like to license to hardware and software companies as well as to wireless service providers worldwide.

    Coursey recommends a visit to P & I's website for techies wondering what the future of input devices will be.

    The product to compare the i-Pen to is Logitech's io Personal Digital Pen.

  • Apple: Way past cool
  • If you were a celebrity, what household name corporation would you lend your grandeur to? According to trend watchers, many young people would choose Apple. It has become the corp of choice for the youth market, people 13 to 34 or so, because it is cool.

    . . .Asked recently what company they would most like to endorse (if they were a celebrity), the correspondents nominated Apple the most popular choice, followed by Coca-Cola, Levi's and Nike.

    Look-Look also asked its network about "cool new gadgets." Picture-taking cell phones topped the list, followed by the iPod and Sony's PlayStation. But when it came to "extremely well-designed products," Apple's iMac and iPod were voted No. 1.

    This fall, the iPod is the No. 2 "must have" item for the back-to-school season, right after new shoes, according to Look-Look's August youth culture newsletter. A new computer or laptop comes third on the list, specifically an iMac or PowerMac G5.

    Shoes and then an iPod? Is this a nation of privilege or what?

    In addition to Look-Look, market researchers L Style Report and Youth Intelligence cite Apple as one of the most cool of nationally known companies.

    10:01 AM