Friday, May 23, 2008

Microsoft Ends Book and Article Digitization, Shuts Down Live Search Books

Just saw the announcement that after digitizing 750,000 books, Microsoft is pulling the plug on Live Search Books and Live Search Academic, and it says it's leaving the field to libraries and publishers-- but doesn't mention a rather large competitor still in the game (Google).

Whether this is more about Microsoft's faltering Live efforts, or really shows that there's not enough money to be made here for private industry, is hard to say. I expect Google will answer this question for us over the next few years.

Monday, May 19, 2008

A Free Thin Client in Every Box?

Slashdot reports that leading motherboard maker Asus has announced that it will extend the use of "Express Gate" technology (essentially a branded version of the Splashtop embedded Linux system) to all of its motherboards, giving about 12 million PCs per year the option of booting to a lightweight version of Linux.

I was initially thinking this would be used mainly as an exceptionally rich diagnostic environment, but a look at the promotional video reveals a much more interesting possibility. Express Gate will include Firefox, Skype, a media player and other apps, and will boot in a matter of seconds. This will allow users to bypass MS Windows when surfing the web or using web-based applications, thus avoiding unnecessarily exposing their MS Windows installation to viruses or malware on the Internet. Techgage did a good overview of Splashtop/Express Gate after CES this year.

It seems to me that for libraries, this could provide low-maintenance OPAC or lab hardware (conceivably, you could just order diskless systems or pull the drives from used systems being repurposed). Although thin clients often make sense as a public computing platform, the case is often made that adding totally unique hardware devices represents a burden for the IT support staff. Splashtop could allow libraries to choose a single vendor and variations on a single model line for both office workers and public PCs.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Sonific, R.I.P. (?)

Visitors to this site may have noticed the Sonific widget, and might have even clicked on it to listen to a track from the album of a friend's band. No more, alas.

Sonific, for those who don't know, provided widgets that allowed bloggers and others to embed free fully-licensed music into their sites, announced they are shutting down today due to a licensing dispute with the music industry's major labels. Sonific's idea was to partner with labels to build a market for music and provide links to label sites where users could make purchases.

Although Sonific had deals with a number of independent labels, the music industry majors didn't want a partnership, and instead wanted Sonific to pay full price for everything as well as to give them equity in Sonific. So Sonific CEO Gerd Leonhard has shut down the service and they are considering their future options.

Sonific essentially provided viral advertising for music labels in tens of thousands of blogs, social network profiles, and other sites. The major labels again missed a chance to provide legal access to their wares in the online world.