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Larry Page to boost Google even more as becoming CEO again

Choose any of the thousands (if not tens of thousands) mirrored reports by AP that Google founder hopes to prove he’s ready to be CEO [April 1, 2011] to learn the hopes and worries of the fans and anxious investors about the return of Larry Page [38] as CEO of Google after 10 years of Eric Schmidt’s [55] leadership.

Warning update: Google as an evil enterprise: the perception changes as vital APIs are shut down  [June 1, 2011]

An update from the Chairman [Eric Schmidt, Jan 20, 2011] (emphasis is mine)

Google -- Eric Schmidt with Sergey Brin and Larry Page in 2001

When I joined Google in 2001 I never imagined—even in my wildest dreams—that we would get as far, as fast as we have today. Search has quite literally changed people’s lives—increasing the collective sum of the world’s knowledge and revolutionizing advertising in the process. And our emerging businesses—display, Android, YouTube and Chrome—are on fire. Of course, like any successful organization we’ve had our fair share of good luck, but the entire team—now over 24,000 Googlers globally—deserves most of the credit.

And as our results today show, the outlook is bright. But as Google has grown, managing the business has become more complicated. So Larry, Sergey and I have been talking for a long time about how best to simplify our management structure and speed up decision making—and over the holidays we decided now was the right moment to make some changes to the way we are structured.

For the last 10 years, we have all been equally involved in making decisions. This triumvirate approach has real benefits in terms of shared wisdom, and we will continue to discuss the big decisions among the three of us. But we have also agreed to clarify our individual roles so there’s clear responsibility and accountability at the top of the company.

Google - Larry Page in the European Parliament -- 17-June-2009 Larry will now lead product development and technology strategy, his greatest strengths, and starting from April 4 he will take charge of our day-to-day operations as Google’s Chief Executive Officer. In this new role I know he will merge Google’s technology and business vision brilliantly. I am enormously proud of my last decade as CEO, and I am certain that the next 10 years under Larry will be even better! Larry, in my clear opinion, is ready to lead.

Sergey [Brin, 37] has decided to devote his time and energy to strategic projects, in particular working on new products. His title will be Co-Founder. He’s an innovator and entrepreneur to the core, and this role suits him perfectly.

As Executive Chairman, I will focus wherever I can add the greatest value: externally, on the deals, partnerships, customers and broader business relationships, government outreach and technology thought leadership that are increasingly important given Google’s global reach; and internally as an advisor to Larry and Sergey.

We are confident that this focus will serve Google and our users well in the future. Larry, Sergey and I have worked exceptionally closely together for over a decade—and we anticipate working together for a long time to come. As friends, co-workers and computer scientists we have a lot in common, most important of all a profound belief in the potential for technology to make the world a better place. We love Google—our people, our products and most of all the opportunity we have to improve the lives of millions of people around the world.

Then watch this Perspective from Google: Eric Schmidt & Larry Page – Zeitgeist Europe 2010 [May 19, 2010] to understand the quite subtle differences between the two leaders. Note that Larry Page is introverted vs. the typical extroverts as business leaders. Note as well (from reply to a question) that Google is not doing the typical business planning exercise but Larry and Brin ideas are simply financed because the operation is generating sufficient revenues for that. This is giving them a unique competitive advantage of moving along innovative things while all the rest of the industry is loosing time with planning.

From Zeitgeist 2010 Google Partner Forum Europe held 17-18 May 2010. Featuring Eric Schmidt (Chairman of the Board & CEO, Google) & Larry Page (Co-Founder & President, Products, Google).
[from 1:20 he is talking about how much he was struck by captioning and translation …]
Note: Switch on the caption and try also the translation on this video. Generally it is a great experience (although not always perfect, since it depends on the clarity of the speech). More information on the technology is available under the Captions tag on the YouTube blog. Best to start is probably here: The Future Will Be Captioned: Improving Accessibility on YouTube [March 4, 2010] and here: Happy Birthday Automatic Captions! Celebrate with more videos and higher quality [Nov 19, 2010]

For detailed analysis – however – of the possible effects of Larry Page becoming CEO again it is better to turn to Fast Company’s earlier 7 Ways Larry Page Is Defining Google’s Future [March 16, 2011] article (quite long). Here is the essence:

The company line on Page’s ascension is that it does not mark any effort to “fix something” at Google. After all, the company reported stellar earnings the day it announced that Page would replace Eric Schmidt. It generated more than $29 billion in revenue in 2010 and 24% annual growth. Page has been part of what has been an unusual but effective ruling troika with Schmidt and fellow cofounder, Sergey Brin.

And yet Page is becoming CEO at a crucial inflection point in Google’s history. The company is beset by rivals everywhere — Apple and Facebook, both of which are closing off chunks of Internet activity beyond Google’s reach; Amazon, Microsoft, Netflix, and others that compete fiercely against it in multiple markets; and even the U.S., the EU, and other governments that want to curtail Google’s ambition. Lately, Google has had more and more public whiffs (see Google Wave, Google Buzz, Google TV).

It’s true that Page is not stepping into a dire situation as Steve Jobs did at Apple in 1997. Page doesn’t need to be a turnaround artist. Yet he has to do something potentially harder: make changes to a winning formula in the face of intense scrutiny, when momentum appears to be against him. To borrow a sports aphorism, winning your first championship is easy compared with trying to repeat.

To outsiders, Page might seem an odd choice to be CEO. He’s personally reserved, unabashedly geeky, and said to be introverted. We won’t be seeing him keynoting A-list conferences with grand vision statements or sitting down for intimate conversations with the press (Google declined to make him available for this article). But after talking to high-level Google executives who work closely with Page, as well as ex-Googlers and other outside observers, a picture begins to emerge of how the search company will change under him. Here’s our seven-part guide to the Google of today — and tomorrow.

  1. A Little Top-Down Leadership Goes a Long Way
  2. Spur On Your Frenemies [encourage your “enemy friends” to do something]
  3. When in Doubt, Check the Data
  4. When in Creative Mode, Don’t Start With Data
  5. A Social Life Is Overrated
  6. Listen Up: Talk Is Cheap
  7. No Goal Is Too Big (And Some Are Too Small)

1. A Little Top-Down Leadership Goes a Long Way

Google - 20% delivering 50% which worked well till 10000 employees For much of its early life, Google reveled in its bottom-up culture. The governing philosophy was “Let’s hire lots of really smart people and let them do whatever they want,” says Brian Kennish, a Google engineer from 2003 to late 2010. Employees — especially engineers — were given unparalleled leeway in deciding what they wanted to work on and encouraged to use 20% of their time to come up with new ideas.

The archetypal product of this era was Gmail, which was born when engineer Paul Buchheit hacked it up in a single day in the summer of 2001. He showed the prototype to his colleagues, and when they expressed interest, Buchheit pulled other promising engineers onto his team. This kind of thing happened time and again at Google; among other products conceived deep within the company’s ranks were Google News, search suggestions, and AdSense, the contextual advertising system that accounted for nearly $9 billion in revenue in 2010.

Kennish, echoing several other former Googlers, adds, “This system worked really well until the company reached about 10,000 workers. After that, things started to break down.” (Google now has 24,000 employees and plans to hire another 6,000 in 2011.)

Android represents a new order, one that Page, who has long played a role in product strategy, will accelerate. … Page and Brin pushed Google into mobile, buying Android when the project was an eight-person startup in 2005. (Schmidt later joked that they didn’t tell him about it until after the deal.) At the time, Google’s mobile strategy was a hodgepodge effort to install its apps on lots of different mobile phones. Page realized that game would never scale. Eustace says it would have required “5,000 people, each one trying to port apps to all the different phones.” For Google to truly benefit from the transition to mobile phones, it would need to shoot for something bigger. Page gave Andy Rubin, Android’s indomitable chief, the resources to run the division as an autonomous unit. Their ambition helped Google settle on a course to release an entire operating system, rather than a single phone. What’s more, Google made Android free and allowed phone manufacturers and carriers to tinker with the software.

Google Andy Rubin (center) with major early partners HTC CEO Peter Chou and Christopher Schlaeffer T-Mobile -- 8-Oct-2008

Android, then, is as much a marvel of management as it is of engineering. “It wasn’t that Larry handed down his vision on stone tablets,” Eustace says. (In other words, he’s not Steve.) But Page had the founding idea that “what was necessary was an ecosystem,” and Android wouldn’t be where it is today if he hadn’t pushed for Google to do something more ambitious. Google - Android Patrners in Open Handset Alliance -- 6-Nov-2007

Page has done this elsewhere. Google’s recent success with YouTube in the face of an unrelenting stream of criticism can be chalked up to a similar management tactic: Page empowered YouTube CEO Salar Kamangar in much the same way he has Android’s Rubin. … As Page takes over, he’ll still find product seedlings everywhere. Google’s product lineup is replete with services that offer overlapping, needlessly duplicative functionality. Android’s triumph should serve as a sweet reminder of the value in imposing just enough discipline before letting the kids chase the ice-cream truck.

See also:
Google Buys Android for Its Mobile Arsenal [Aug 17, 2005]: “The 22-month-old startup, based in Palo Alto, Calif., brings to Google a wealth of talent, including co-founder Andy Rubin, who previously started mobile-device maker Danger Inc.
CrunchBase on Android

In July 2005, Google acquired Android, a small startup company based in Palo Alto, CA. Android’s co-founders who went to work at Google included Andy Rubin (co-founder of Danger), Rich Miner (co-founder of Wildfire), Nick Sears (once VP at T-Mobile), and Chris White (one of the first engineers at WebTV). At the time, little was known about the functions of Android other than they made software for mobile phones. This began rumors that Google was planning to enter the mobile phone market, although it was unclear at the time what function they might perform in that market.

Introducing Android [Nov 5, 2007]

[2:19] The creators of Android talk about their new open platform for mobile phones and the Open Handset Alliance. To learn more, visit: http://www.openhandsetalliance.com

Where’s my Gphone? [Andy Rubin, Nov 5, 2007]

Google Android chief Andy Rubin Android is the first truly open and comprehensive platform for mobile devices. It includes an operating system, user-interface and applications — all of the software to run a mobile phone, but without the proprietary obstacles that have hindered mobile innovation. We have developed Android in cooperation with the Open Handset Alliance, which consists of more than 30 technology and mobile leaders including Motorola, Qualcomm, HTC and T-Mobile. Through deep partnerships with carriers, device manufacturers, developers, and others, we hope to enable an open ecosystem for the mobile world by creating a standard, open mobile software platform. We think the result will ultimately be a better and faster pace for innovation that will give mobile customers unforeseen applications and capabilities.

Google, Bidding For Phone Ads, Lures Partners [The Wall Street Journal, Nov 6, 2007]

Among the handset makers that have signed on to the initiative are Taiwan’s HTC Corp., Samsung Electronics Co. and Motorola Inc. Operator partners include Deutsche Telekom AG’s T-Mobile, Sprint Nextel Corp. and Japan’s NTT DoCoMo Inc. (See the entire list of Google’s partners.) …

But until new handsets based on Android come to market, it won’t be clear how far operators have gone to satisfy Google’s desire for open mobile software. Some carriers have said they still want to make sure Android doesn’t allow sensitive user information to fall into the hands of rogue third-party developers, leading to invasions of privacy and security risks. Those issues partly explain why large U.S. operators such as AT&T Inc. and Verizon Wireless, a joint venture of Verizon Communications Inc. and Vodafone Group PLC, have yet to sign on to Google’s initiative.

Verizon Wireless is still weighing whether to join, a person familiar with the company’s thinking said. AT&T, in part because it exclusively carries Apple Inc.’s iPhone in the U.S., is restricted from partnering with Google, people familiar with the matter say. …

Sprint hasn’t agreed to carry a Google-powered phone yet, but signed on to the Android alliance while it continues talks. John Garcia, the carrier’s senior vice president of product development, said using Android in phones would make it easier to get a variety of mobile applications to consumers. Mr. Garcia said mobile-game makers routinely have to test their applications on an array of Sprint phones, writing specific programming code for each one. That could become a thing of the past if an open platform becomes widespread.

Android Open Source Project [Oct 20, 2008]

[4:26] An introduction to Android Open Source Project. Android is the first free, open source, and fully customizable mobile platform. Android offers a full stack: an operating system, middleware, and key mobile applications. It also contains a rich set of APIs that allows third-party developers to develop great applications. Learn more at source.android.com.

From this (my own) blog:
OPhone OS (OMS) 2.0 based on Android 2.1 [July 5, 2010]
Android 2.2 (Froyo) excitement is just the tip of the iceberg for the current Android momentum [July 9 – Sept 10, 2010]
Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) and 3.0 (Honeycomb) [Dec 30, 2010 – Feb 4, 2011]

What’s behind Android’s race to No. 1? [March 8, 2011]:

It’s no longer the era of the BlackBerry — or the iPhone. According to a market research report released this week, Google’s Android operating system now is the most popular smartphone platform in the United States.

The first phone running Android, the T-Mobile G1, wasn’t announced until September 2008. Only 2½ years later, the research firm comScore says Android is No. 1 in the U.S. with 31.2% of the market, compared with 30.4% for BlackBerry’s business-friendly operating system and 24.7% for the iOS from Apple, which powers the seemingly omnipresent iPhone.

What accounts for this meteoric rise? Here’s a summary of what makes Android popular, based on conversations with smartphone experts, buzz on the tech blogs and reader responses to our query posted on the @cnntech Twitter feed.

  • Consumers like choices
  • There’s basically one iPhone
  • There are dozens of Android options
  • Integration with the internet
  • Openness of the Android Market
  • Apps that do what you need, not what you don’t: In terms of app numbers, Android is losing big to Apple. Google’s Android Market has 150,000 apps. Apple has more than 350,000. But Gikas said the Android apps pretty  much cover everything an average consumer would want a phone to do, so having more apps isn’t necessarily the best selling point.
  • Stealing the best of everything and then giving it away

Platform Versions [Android Developers site, extracted on April 1, 2011]

Google Android Platform Versions - Historical Distribution -- 1-April-2011

Platform API Level Distribution
Android 1.5 3 2.7%
Android 1.6 4 3.5%
Android 2.1 7 27.2%
Android 2.2 8 63.9%
Android 2.3 9 0.8%
Android 2.3.3 10 1.7%
Android 3.0 11 0.2%

2. Spur On Your Frenemies [encourage your “enemy friends” to do something]

2009.04.30. [2:33] What is a browser? was the question we asked over 50 passersby of different ages and backgrounds in the Times Square in New York. Watch the many responses people came up with.

Less than 8% of people who were interviewwd on this day knew what a browser was.
[But most of them knew Google, and most of them considered Google a browser.]

Two years ago, Google sent a camera crew to Times Square, in New York, and asked passersby a simple question: What is a web browser? “A browser’s a search engine,” said one guy. Another respondent was pretty sure that “it’s what I search through — like, to find things.” When asked which browser they use, most people said Google, while a few renegades stuck to Yahoo and AOL. None of these, of course, are browsers.

So if you’ve ever wondered why Google needed its own web browser, called Chrome, here’s why: It needed Chrome to goad Microsoft, Apple, and other browser makers into reigniting innovation in what had become a moribund market. Everyone’s efforts collectively improve the web as a whole, which is good for Google and its ad business. Even if its rivals merely copied Chrome’s advancements — superfast, stable, and, thus far, impossible to hack — Google saw that it could achieve its larger goals.

Expect Page to launch even more initiatives that may seem futile when considered alone but that are, in fact, designed to wake up drowsy competitors. Think about such “puzzling” Google moves as releasing its own branded phones — the Nexus One and Nexus S — and competing against the handset makers and carriers that it’s supposed to be courting. Or about Google’s initiative to wire America with fiber-optic lines, as its plan to roll out superfast Internet to several cities suggests. Google really wants Verizon and others to pick up the pace. And when those rivals do, Google will benefit from the innovations that result.

See also: Sun Valley: Schmidt Didn’t Want to Build Chrome Initially, He Says [July 9, 2009]
Comment: Chrome came out in September 2008.

3. When in Doubt, Check the Data

Deciding questions by data is to Google what eye-catching design is to Apple, or what global supply-chain management is to Walmart. It forms the spine of every major decision, and nearly every minor one. Data’s preeminence in Google’s culture helps prevent anyone at the company from pulling rank. It also wards off resistance to change. This will only become more important as Page takes over as the top decision maker at a company whose core search algorithm, PageRank, is named for him.

… Even Page has proved willing to reverse himself if the numbers don’t bear him out. …

Google’s devotion to data isn’t always an asset (as we’ll explore momentarily), but there’s likely no other way for the company to conceive of itself because that’s how Page operates. “I was talking to Larry on Saturday,” says Nikesh Arora, Google’s chief business officer, when we sit down to talk the following Tuesday. “I told him that I’d gotten back from nine cities in 12 days — Munich, Copenhagen, Davos, Zurich, New Delhi, Bombay, London, San Francisco. There’s a silence for five seconds. And then he’s like, ‘That’s only eight.’ “

4. When in Creative Mode, Don’t Start With Data

… As Google grows into more arenas where engineering alone can’t carry the day, most notably in social and handheld interfaces, Page will have to tweak this data-driven mind-set to embrace more creative types if the company is to thrive. Google has never invested heavily in hiring classically trained designers, and insiders say that due to a constant shortage of creative staff, engineers sometimes decide the look of their own products. …

And yet, despite Page’s personal inclinations, there are signs that Google is pushing itself to transcend its design deficiencies. Matias Duarte joined the company’s Android team last year from Palm, where he was lauded for creating the well-regarded user interface for its mobile operating system called WebOS. Duarte admits that since signing on, he has come to rely on data as a tool in the design process — but not, he insists, as a crutch. Whereas the look and feel of Apple’s software and hardware are kept secret and revealed to just a few people, Duarte’s designs are shared widely inside Google and with other partners and testers. (Google routinely tests products this way before sharing them with the world, calling the process “dogfooding,” as in the company eats its own dog food. Or, in Duarte’s case, “Droid-fooding.”)

Duarte points out that this openness has led to novel insights into what users want. Honeycomb, Google’s new tablet-specific version of Android, includes an eye-catching interface to show people all the recent applications they’ve been using. It’s a feature that the iPad sorely misses — and it came about only because of extensive statistical analysis of usage patterns. The lesson: Google can succeed in more creative pursuits if it pushes the limits of its data-centric culture but still relies on that culture to enhance creative solutions. “We don’t design by committee; we don’t design by focus group,” Duarte says. “But we do verify everything we’re trying to do with our design with stringent, large-scale user testing.” …

5. A Social Life Is Overrated

Page’s apparent lack of personal interest on the web’s major social sites creates a convenient narrative for Google’s dreadful record in the space — a string of failures that include Dodgeball, Jaiku, Lively, Buzz, and Wave. Orkut, the social network that Google engineer Orkut Büyükkökten launched in 2004, is still alive (it’s big in Brazil), but few Googlers consider it a success. Meanwhile, Google has had several social-networking savants in the ‘plex and let them slip away to found other companies, among them Evan Williams (Twitter) and Dennis Crowley (Foursquare). …

… “There’s an EQ — an emotional intelligence — around social software, and it just might be out of Google’s reach,” says Jason Shellen, who spent four years as a business-development exec at Google after it acquired Blogger and who now works at AOL. …

… But that’s not to say Google is giving up on social. Far from it. Its success relies on understanding how the web works, and the web is getting more social all the time. Google has continued to acquire social startups — most recently Slide for $228 million (not to mention its rumored interest in buying Twitter for $10 billion). According to sources, Google isn’t planning a Facebook clone but rather it intends to roll out new social features across all its products. Its ultimate aim seems to be to collect and analyze the social activity that’s going on across the web, beyond Facebook’s walls. …

… If Google can’t compete with Facebook directly, perhaps it can render Facebook moot by making everything else on the web feel like Facebook. Still, building a fun web-based community turns out to be harder than building a great smartphone (witness the utter failure that is Apple’s Ping). Don’t be surprised if this is one arena where Page is happy merely to have a credible offering.

6. Listen Up: Talk Is Cheap

The company became the biggest search engine in the world because it built a better product, not because it created better TV ads than Yahoo.

Google’s build-it-and-they-will-come naïveté seems almost cute in the age of Apple. Many of Google’s advances go unnoticed by the public because nobody hears about them. Do iPhone owners know that Android lets you dictate email by voice? Imagine the marketing fun Apple would have there. Or that Google Voice rings all your phones when someone calls you, and transcribes your voice mail to boot?

With its new CEO an introvert, perhaps Google will never tap its inner Apple. But maybe, in the bigger picture, that’s a trade-off worth making. Page is not a CEO out of central casting, despite the fact that Wall Street and the media tend to prefer extroverts as leaders: the superhero who puffs out his chest and delivers bold, motivating pronouncements. According to some surprising forthcoming research from management professors at Harvard Business School, the University of North Carolina, and Wharton, though, introverts can be more successful leaders — particularly in dynamic, uncertain, and fast-changing environments like the tech industry. “They tend to be less threatened by others’ ideas,” says Adam Grant, a Wharton professor and coauthor of the study. “And they’ll collect a lot of them before determining a vision.” Because introverts spend more time listening than talking, they hear more ideas.

The hallmarks of Google culture, including the weekly TGIF [Thank God It’s Friday] sessions where Page and Brin take questions from employees, are precisely about creating dialogue. Even if the company relies less on 20% time for unfettered product development, Page’s personal style is likely to keep new ideas flowing. The key for Page is to “surround himself with some extroverts,” Grant says. “Extroversion and introversion are the only personality traits where you need a balance between the two to be an effective team.” As the success of the Bing sting indicates, Page seems to be listening to his extroverts in embracing a bolder public profile — not for himself, but for Google.

Google TGIF in 2006 with new Googlers wearing propeller heads

See also: What’s it like to work in Mountain View? [Google]

Transparency is a staple of Google’s working environment – all voices matter and Googlers enjoy a variety of opportunities to share information and voice questions and opinions. For example, every Friday we host a “TGIF” [Thank God It’s Friday] event in Charlie’s Cafe, where Googlers can learn about the company’s latest news and ask their tough questions in live Q&A sessions.

7. No Goal Is Too Big (And Some Are Too Small)

That audaciousness — the ambition to tackle a seemingly unsolvable problem with deep reservoirs of money and data — is the ultimate insight into what makes Google Googley. “When people come to Larry with ideas, he always wants it bigger,” says one ex-Googler. “His whole point is that only Google has the kind of resources to make big bets. The asset that Larry brings is to say, ‘Let’s go and make big things happen.’ ” (This may explain why Page isn’t interested in a Facebook killer: “With social, there isn’t a problem for Google to solve,” says the former Googler Shellen.)

That’s what’s thrilling about Page taking the helm at Google right now. You get the sense that under his leadership, Google could try its hand at anything. More than anything else during my interviews with people who know Page, one comment stands out: “I don’t care what you put in the article,” says David Lawee, Google’s head of acquisitions. “To me, this is the real story: Larry is a truly awesome inventor-entrepreneur. My aspiration for him is that he becomes one of the greatest inventors-entrepreneurs in history, in the realm of the Thomas Edisons of the world.”

The example used in the above article to prove the point is the Statistical Machine Translation research applied in Google’s machine-translation system:

[Franz] Och oversees Google’s machine-translation system, a spectacularly ambitious effort that analyzes text found on the web to create statistical models that can transform one language into another. Machine translation is far from perfect, but Google’s project, which began in 2004, has succeeded far beyond what most experts thought possible. Including Och. Google spent a year trying to recruit him; each time, he explained to Page and other execs that what they were asking for couldn’t be done. “They were very optimistic, and I tried to tell them to be cautious,” he says. “It’s really complicated, extremely expensive, and you need very large amounts of data.”

The company hired Och despite his skepticism, and today, machine translation (along with speech recognition) is one of Google’s best-known artificial-intelligence projects. It’s also a key competitive advantage. Even on the iPhone, you’ll use Google’s software to help you read that French road sign or to transform your voice commands into text searches. Och now seems bemused by this success. Google, he says, simply had far more resources — more data, more computing power, more money — than he ever thought possible. Google can now translate 58 different languages. “When I started at Google, if you told me that five years later we’d be able to translate Yiddish, Maltese, Icelandic, Azerbaijani, and Basque, I would have said, That’s just not going to happen,” he says. “But [Page and Brin] didn’t believe me. And I guess they were more right than I was.”

Inside Google Translate [July 9, 2010]

Let’s see for more details a presentation by Franz Och who oversees that work:
Google Faculty Summit 2009: Statistical Machine Translation [Oct 5, 2009]

Google Tech Talk, July 30, 2009 [49:50] Most state-of-the-art commercial machine translation systems in use today have been developed using a rules-based approach and require a lot of work by linguists to define vocabularies and grammars. Several research systems, including ours, take a different approach: we feed the computer with billions of words of text, both monolingual text in the target language, and aligned text consisting of examples of human translations between the languages.

Google - Static Machine Translation improvements for languages launched recently -- 30-July-2009[13:28 – 14:24] … some of the languages we’ve launched recently, Hindi, Thai and Hungarian … It is quite challenging for some of the languages to find data …

Doubling Up [Franz Josef Och, Sept 29, 2008]

Machine translation is hard. Natural languages are so complex and have so many ambiguities and exceptions that teaching a computer to translate between them turned out to be a much harder problem than people thought when the field of machine translation was born over 50 years ago. At Google Research, our approach is to have the machines learn to translate by using learning algorithms on gigantic amounts of monolingual and translated data. Another knowledge source is user suggestions. This approach allows us to constantly improve the quality of machine translations as we mine more data and get more and more feedback from users.

A nice property of the learning algorithms that we use is that they are largely language independent — we use the same set of core algorithms for all languages. So this means if we find a lot of translated data for a new language, we can just run our algorithms and build a new translation system for that language.

As a result, we were recently able to significantly increase the number of languages on translate.google.com. Last week, we launched eleven new languages: Catalan, Filipino, Hebrew, Indonesian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Serbian, Slovak, Slovenian, Ukrainian, Vietnamese. This increases the total number of languages from 23 to 34.  Since we offer translation between any of those languages this increases the number of language pairs from 506 to 1122 (well, depending on how you count simplified and traditional Chinese you might get even larger numbers). We’re very happy that we can now provide free online machine translation for many languages that didn’t have any available translation system before.

So how far can we go with adding new languages in the future? Can we go to 40, 50 or even more languages?  It is certainly getting harder, as less data is available for those languages and as a result it is harder to build systems that meet our quality bar.  But we’re working on better learning algorithms and new ways to mine data and so even if we haven’t covered your favorite language yet, we hope that we will have it soon.

See also:
Statistical machine translation live [April 28, 2006)]

Google Translate adds 10 new languages… [May 15, 2008]: “We’ve recently added translation capabilities for 10 new languages to Google Translate, bringing the total to 23 languages. The newly featured languages include Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Finnish, Hindi, Norwegian, Polish, Romanian and Swedish.

Translate between 41 languages with Google Translate [Feb 26, 2009]: “recently added Turkish, Thai, Hungarian, Estonian, Albanian, Maltese, and Galician to the mix. The rollout of these seven additional languages marks a new milestone: automatic translations between 41 languages (1,640 language pairs!). This means we can now translate between languages read by 98% of Internet users.

51 Languages in Google Translate [Aug 31, 2009]: “we’ve added 9 new languages to Google Translate: Afrikaans, Belarusian, Icelandic, Irish, Macedonian, Malay, Swahili, Welsh, and Yiddish, bringing the number of languages we support from 42 to 51.”

A new look for Google Translate [Nov 16, 2009]:

Translate instantly: Say goodbye to the old “Translate” button. Google Translate now translates your text right as you type.

Read and write any language: Want to say “Today is a good day” in Chinese, but can’t read Han characters? Click “Show romanization” to read the text written phonetically in English. Right now, this works for all non-Roman languages except for Hebrew, Arabic and Persian.

Text-to-speech: When translating into English, you can now also hear translations in spoken form by clicking the Speaker Icon.

Giving a voice to more languages on Google Translate [May 11, 2010]:

One of the popular features of Google Translate is the ability to hear translations spoken out loud (”text-to-speech”) by clicking the speaker icon beside some translations, like the one below.

We rolled this feature out for English and Haitian Creole translations a few months ago and added French, Italian, German, Hindi and Spanish a couple of weeks ago. Now we’re bringing text-to-speech to even more languages with the open source speech synthesizer, eSpeak.

By integrating eSpeak we’re adding text-to-speech functionality for Afrikaans, Albanian, Catalan, Chinese (Mandarin), Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Greek, Hungarian, Icelandic, Indonesian, Latvian, Macedonian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Slovak, Swahili, Swedish, Turkish, Vietnamese and Welsh.

Five more languages on translate.google.com [May 13, 2010]: “In 2009, we announced the addition of our first “alpha” language, Persian, on Google Translate. Today, we are excited to add five more alpha languages: Azerbaijani, Armenian, Basque, Urdu and Georgian — bringing the total number of languages on Google Translate to 57.

Poetic Machine Translation [Oct 5, 2010]: “A Statistical Machine Translation system, like Google Translate, typically performs translations by searching through a multitude of possible translations, guided by a statistical model of accuracy. However, to translate poetry, we not only considered translation accuracy, but meter and rhyming schemes as well. In our paper we describe in more detail how we altered our translation model, but in general we chose to sacrifice a little of the translation’s accuracy to get the poetic form right.”

Franz Josef Och site
Google Translate blog

Google Technology RoundTable: Human Language Technology [Aug 21, 2008]

Human language technology experts at Google, Franz Josef Och and Mike Cohen discuss their exciting research in machine translation and speech technology with Alfred Spector, Google VP of Research and Special Initiatives.
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Cloud Computing Strategy for Digital China: Taiwan is leading the way except IOT

In my post Be aware of mainland China and Taiwan stronger manufacturing links in ICT [Sept 2] it has already been proven that mainland China and Taiwan are fast becoming essentially one in the important ICT sector. Moreover, it was a recent acceptance of IMT-Advanced (4G) for the next-generations of interactive mobile services, China is triumphant [Oct 24] as major effect of that acceptance. It is more visible for mainland China as for them the #1 issue is Could China close the gap in mobile Internet? It should! [July 21]. For Taiwan the issue in this regard was the one related to Intel dismisses WiMAX Program Office [July 1] only. With IMT-Advanced (4G) accepted by ITU the Taiwanese concern about their strong and already very much advanced WiMAX commitment has also been resolved since the WirelessMAN-Advanced within IMT-Advanced is in fact a kind of WiMAX 2.

With such triumphant continuation assured for both the Taiwanese mobile Internet as well as that of mainland China (see 3.9G TD-LTE rollout in 2012 with integrated 2G, 3G and 4G? [July 19]) for an ardent China technology watcher like myself the next issue is what about their cloud computing strategies?

For mainland China the most visible manifestations of any cloud foundation related strategies of their own have been the OPhone OS (OMS) 2.0 based on Android 2.1 [July 5] and the Mobile search SaaS battle [June 28]. On behalf of the large international ICT players, on the other hand, the most visible mainland China related cloud effort has been so far the SAP’s Business ByDesign SaaS to be relaunched on July 31 with mobility as one of key attractions [July 28] only. So a kind of core coverage has already been provided on my “Experiencing the Cloud” blog.

-With a TD-LTE (time division long term evolution) testing lab jointly established by Taiwanese end-user instruments makers in China becoming operational, China Mobile, one of China`s big three telecom service providers, will move to expand its cooperation with them on 4G business in the country soon.

Yvonne Li, president of Taiwan`s Far Eastone Telecommunications Co., Ltd., one of founders of the TD-LTE testing lab, has confirmed that several Taiwanese handset makers, including High Tech Computer (HTC) Corp. and Asustek Computer Inc., have sent their smartphones to the lab for testing, which will be adopted by China Mobile for launch in China in 2011 at the earliest.

Also, Taiwan-based MediaTek Inc., a globally leading handset IC designer, is expected to count on the lab to accelerate development of its chipsets for TD-LTE phones, industry insiders noted.

Through the testing lab, Li stressed that Taiwanese firms relative to 4G communications can tap China Mobile`s supply chain of 4G phones more easily in the future than before. In short, the lab will also help step up cooperation between the Chinese telecom service provider and Taiwanese manufacturers.

Li also indicated that his firm has moved to expand collaboration with China Mobile on value-added mobile services, with the former`s application software and e-book readers already available on the latter`s online shopping store. Prospectively, said, the cooperation will open the door wider to China`s e-book reader market for other Taiwanese firms in the future.

So far, China Mobile has decided to set up over 3000 TD-LTE base stations in six metropolises, such as Beijing and Shanghai, in China, and, to counter underdevelopment of related 4G phones, has planned to rely on Taiwanese suppliers` cutting-edge product R&D capability to boost promotion of the 4G services.

Taiwan-based mobile telecom carrier Far EasTone Telecommunications (FET) has launched 25 Chinese-language Android applications om Mobile Market, the online store operated by China Mobile, with market response better than originally expected, according to FET.

The 25 applications, with 23 ones free and two chargeable, are selected from S Mart, FET’s online store of which 40% are for chargeable download, FET indicated. The launch on Mobile Market has hit a record of 43,000 downloads a day and reached more than 140,000 downloads cumulatively, FET noted. With 40 more applications under review by China Mobile, FET expects to have 100 applications available on Mobile Market at the end of 2010.

Most of the applications on Mobile Market should be for free use in order to cultivate habits, a necessary measure to pave the way for launching more chargeable applications in the future, FET pointed out. FET plans to invest NT$300 million (US$9.6 million) in three years offering free applications to tap the China market.

Taiwan has about 15.42 million computer users and 14.46 million being habitual Internet browsers, 63.9% of which have shipped [shopped?] online, up 10 percentage points from the corresponding 53.9% of last year, according to a recent survey by the Research, Development & Evaluation Commission (RDEC) under the Taiwan Cabinet.

Online shoppers have spent on average this year NT$13,864 (US$447.23) per person, surging 41.24% from last year`s NT$9,816 (US$306.75). In addition, 26.4% of the browsers have used online financial services, up five percentage points from that recorded a year earlier. Such uptrend reflects the increasing dependence on the Internet by Taiwanese in home economy, or the art and economics of home management.

The survey shows that 86 of every 100 households in Taiwan own computers, with 81 being online browsers. This year the proportion of mobile online users has increased to 53% from last year`s 41.9%; while 75.6% of the island`s 12-and-older people have used computers and 70.9% have used the Internet.

Some 64.9% of Taiwan`s online users have participated in Internet communities, 48.8% have joined MSN, and 41.4% have participated in Facebook, with 34.9% having set up personal blogs.

The joint venture … will be the first manufacturer of cloud computing equipment co-founded by industries on the two sides of the Taiwan Straits.

Tian [Sounin, Skycloud Chairman] noted that mainland China has included cloud-computing development in its 12th Five-Year Plan, setting to push for one mega cloud computing plan each in Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Wuxi and Nanjing in five years.

Of the five mega programs, the one for Beijing will cost at least RMB50 billion (US$7.5 billion at US$1:RMB6.6) in investment and create an industry revenue four times the investment costs. The one for Shanghai is also expected to create revenue the same size of the Beijing plan.

According to executives of Chunghwa Telecom Co., Ltd., the mainland`s top three telecom carriers—China Telecom, China Mobile and China Unicom—will also start their own cloud-computing programs.

Taiwan`s Ministry of Economic Affairs estimated global revenue in cloud-computing industry will reach US$409.6 billion in 2012 and Taiwan has designed cloud computing as next NT$1 trillion (US$33 billion at US$1:NT$30) industry.

The cooperation is for Skycloud help CHT market CHT-developed cloud computing infrastructure and application services and ICT-based intelligent services/solutions for home, business and government use in China, with Skycloud to provide hardware and system integration services, CHT pointed out. In addition, CHT will set up an exhibition center of its cloud computing products in a cloud computing park developed by Skycloud in Beijing, with completion scheduled for the end of January 2011, CHT indicated. CHT will then introduce its cloud computing products, the HiCloud CaaS (compute as a service), to the China market in March-April 2011, the company noted.

Skycloud, in order to promote cloud computing business, has set up 13 offices around China and the nationwide promotion network will be expanded to 35-40 offices in 2011, Tian [Edward, Skycloud chairman] pointed out. Skycloud has been in cooperation with Taiwan-based IC design house VIA Technologies, and both sides will set up a China-based joint venture in 2011 to develop terminal devices specifically for cloud computing application, Tian indicated.

Two top companies of Taiwan and China have signed a memorandum of understanding to start the cooperation on jointly tapping the commercial opportunities in cloud computing services for companies in the Greater China area.

Lu Shyue-ching, chairman of Chunghwa Telecom Co. and concurrently head of the Taiwan Cloud Computing Consortium (TCCC), inked the document with chairman Edward Tian of the Beijing-based Skycloud Technology (China), Inc.

The pact marks the closer cooperation between the two companies, but executives at Chunghwa Telecom, the leading telecommunications service company in Taiwan, said the project also represents the beginning of mutual assistance between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait concerning cloud computing services.

They said Chunghwa Telecom will team up with Taiwan-based enterprises to formally start providing services in the Chinese market in 2011, including shipping the turn-key projects there.

The partners of Chunghwa Telecom in Taiwan include Quanta Computers, Inventec, and Trend Micro Incorporated.

Skycloud Technology, a leading cloud computing system integration company, has become a bellwether of the cloud computing sector in China after integrating resources at several other companies, including Centrine Data Systems, CE Open Source Software, and a software firm set up by the Beijing University of Technologyto form the China Cloud Computing Technology and Industry Alliance (CCCTIA).

Chunghwa Telecom is playing a similar role in Taiwan.

Shareholders of Skycloud Technology (China) also include Yahoo founder Jerry Young, and executives from Taiwan like chairman Barry Lam of Quanta Computer, president Chen Wen-Chi of VIA Technologies, and chairman Steve Chang of Trend Micro, a computer and Internet security company.

Skycloud Technology, which aims to bring enterprises in China into the “cloud era,” was understood to have won several contracts to develop cloud computing projects in China, including the one at Beijing Zhongguancun.

Chunghwa Telecom Co., Ltd. and Inventec Corp. yesterday announced cooperation on four cloud-computing projects, including establishing a cloud-computing equipment laboratory, developing cloud-computing equipment for end-user market, and setting up an online store offering content applications.

Also, the two companies decided to work with Skycloud Technology (China) Inc. on integrated solutions for mainland China`s cloud-computing market, which is estimated at around NT$1 trillion (US$33 billion at US$1:NT$30) over next five years.

Inventec will place all the application software it co-develops with content-service developers on Chunghwa Telecom`s cloud-computing Internet data centers set up around the island. Industry watchers said Inventec and Chunghwa Telecom do not rule out the possibility of founding a joint venture to develop cloud-computing application software. Chunghwa Telecom executives said the jury is still out on the joint venture plan.

The idea of the two companies’ online content store is inspired by Apple Store. The online store will help Taiwan`s developers of cloud-computing software open online shops to sell their products.

… Meanwhile, Platform Computing, a leading company in cluster, grid and cloud management software with 80 percent of the global market share, said on Monday that it planned to build an operating center in Taiwan within six months. The Canada-based company expects the new center to handle its cloud computing business in the greater China area …

  • Update [Nov 16]: Gene Perez from GMS (Santa Maria, California, US) noted in the comment below, that “labor is pretty damn cheap there as well”. Indeed, the graph below is showing the case for Taiwan (from U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Table 1 of International Comparisons of Manufacturing Productivity and Unit Labor Cost Trends or http://www.bls.gov/fls/prodsuppt.xls):
  • Something similar for Greater China (PRC) from the same source [Nov 17] which shows that manufacturing employees in Greater China get upto 10 times less than even their counterparts in Taiwan — a huge competitive edge for many years and decades ahead which is when combined with cloud computing foundation will be an even more killing combination than upto now:

Table 1.  Hourly compensation costs of manufacturing employees in China, 2002-2008

Year National currency basis
(Yuan)
U.S. dollar basis
(US$)
Index1
(US = 100)
2002 4.74 0.57 2.1
2003 5.17 0.62 2.2
2004 5.50 0.66 2.3
2005 5.95 0.73 2.4
2006 6.44 0.81 2.7
20072 8.06 1.06 3.4
2008 9.48 1.36 4.2

The current issue for me is therefore Taiwan related. What is the cloud computing strategy in Taiwan? How that strategy has taken into consideration the huge potential of mainland China? Not only as a market to sell into but as well as a huge and growing ICT industry to collaborate with.  What is the role of the government there? Etc.

Below are my findings for which it was more than enough to collect information from the relevant Taiwan Economic News of China Economic News Service (CENS). I would highly recommend to subscribe to that service.

  • Items #1-3 are showing that Taiwan’s lead in cloud computing has been well established by their government led efforts in the last two years. Item #4-5 are indicating that from large international ICT players Microsoft has been the first to engage in this very early period. Item #6 is about the first government assisted megaprojects.
  • Item #7 is referring to the latest Gartner view on mainland China.
  • Item #8 is about the IOT (Internet of Things) situation (notable here is the active liason work of  Newland Group of Greater China), while item #9 is about the cloud computing effort as a whole in Taiwan.
  • Item #10 is about Intel’s involvement coming quite late to the party.
  • Items #11-12 are about Chungwa Telecom (Taiwan’s #1 telecom service provider) efforts being with the government from the very beginning.
  • Item #13 is a report about the one year results of another government lead effort to build a mighty e-Book Industry, application-wise closely related to the whole cloud computing strategy.
  • Items #14-20 are about some “grass-root” efforts indicating the building strengths of ICT industry players in the joint cloud computing effort:
    – #14: HTC which is also the most promising ICT brand in Taiwan [Oct 18]
    – #15: a joint brain-drain effort by their major ICT players
    – #16: BenQ-AUO Group
    – #17: Taiwan Mobile and Far EasTone, not to lag behind Chunghwa Telecom
    – #18: Inventec
    – #19: Chungwa-Fujitsu collaboration
    – #20: Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., known internationally as Foxconn

1. Taiwan`s MIC Prescribes Manufacturing-to-Service Upgrade to Sharpen Edge (2008/12/24)

Despite the global economic downturn, the Ministry of Economic Affairs in Taiwan and its Industry & Technology Intelligence Services (ITIS) have been sponsoring a series of seminars themed “Discovering Taiwan 2008: Building Future Industries.” As part of this program, the Market Intelligence Center (MIC) of the Institute for Information Industry (III) has been exploring, based on tapping opportunities within the information and communication technology (ICT) sector, various issues, including “the developmental trends of Taiwan`s IT sector; building new superiorities in Taiwan`s IT sector by tapping green concepts and values; and the outlook on the ten key IT software issues in 2009.”

The MIC believes that it is critical for Taiwan to upgrade its industrial competitiveness by shifting from manufacturing to offering service-oriented products.

Top-10 IT Software Issues

After intensive investigation and interviews with companies and experts, MIC summarizes in the following the 10-top issues concerning the IT software industry in Taiwan.

1. Microsoft … Windows 7 operating system in 2010 …

2. IT software developers … vital to focus on energy-saving, carbon-reduction in 2009, as global information-software developers try to build new products … to help enterprises cut energy consumption and upgrade IT equipment operation efficiency in 2009.

3. The increasingly mature business model Cloud Computing, or the Internet-based “Cloud” development and use of computing. It is computer tech that enables offering IT-related capabilities as service, allowing users to access technology-enabled services online. With such increasingly mature computing meeting the trend of businesses to streamline computing equipment, Cloud would gain more attention and stir more buzz in 2009.

4. The Software as a Service (SaaS) will become a major option for enterprises. Eliminating the need to install, run an application on customers` own PC, SaaS is a model of software deployment that offers as service customers to access, run programs online. Like the Cloud Computing, SaaS allows enterprises to better control costs for software installation, maintenance, making such option a top-choice for SMEs.

5. With SOA (Service Oriented Architecture) solutions for systems development and integration increasingly maturing, and after IT software developers` aggressive promotion, such solution will no longer be a buzzword but more widely adopted in 2009.

6. Open-code software to be used for mobile applications: After Google`s promotion of Linux cellphone open software architecture and Nokia`s release of the Symbian code, open-code software will be rapidly applied in mobile applications in 2009.

7. … information security of smartphone applications …

8. Personal Data Protection Law …

9. Taiwan`s contract software-developers …

10. Knowledge Process Outsourcing or KPO will continue to gain momentum, with the American legal profession already adopting such model. KPO is simply having staff in a different company or subsidiary of the same firm in the same country or offshore do knowledge- and information-related work to save cost, or a form of outsourcing. The highly localized, customized KPO is the next stage in the IT-outsourcing evolution.

2. Four Taiwanese Companies, Institutes Set Up Taiwan Cloud Computing Center (2010/01/29)

The four members include telecom carrier Chunghwa Telecom Co., Ltd. (CHT), anti-virus software company Trend Micro Inc., government-sponsored technology R&D institute Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI), and information technology (IT) industry knowledge center Institute for Information Industry (III).

The center will be responsible for helping push six emerging industries on the island into the cloud computing field, and develop Taiwan into a global supply base of cloud-computing equipment and an application headquarters.

Taiwan`s Premier Wu Den-yih said earlier that the TCCC is expected to further upgrade the development of local information and communication technology (ICT) industry and that the Executive Yuan (the Cabinet) has enlisted cloud-computing a key sector for priority development.

Targeted cloud-computing applications in Taiwan include medical-care and educational industries in the initial stage; as well as six emerging lines for the second stage, such as green energy, tourism, health-care, biotechnology, dedicated agriculture, and culture/creativity industries.

3. ITRI Kicks Off Operation of Cloud Computing Research Center (2009/12/29)

Since setting up the Cloud Computing Research Center in September of 2009, the ITRI has actively recruited top engineers with related technical background, including Dr. Chiueh Tzi-cker, the head of the center, and sought cooperation with enterprises, in an effort to activate the center as soon as possible and assist industries on the island to carve out new niches through earlier involvement in the technology.

Chiueh noted that the center will be dedicated to development of software, hardware and application services based on cloud computing technology. Plus, he added that ITRI will establish a containerized data center, which will be installed with a total of up to 2,000 servers and related necessary equipment.

4. MOEA Signs MOU With Microsoft to Tap Cloud Computing Technology (2009/11/09)

Besides, Taiwan`s Economic Minister Y.S. Shih and Microsoft`s CEO Steve Ballmer also announced at the MOU signing a joint investment to establish the “Software and Services Excellence Center” on the island, which will employ engineers from Taiwan`s nationally funded Industrial Technology Research Institute and Institute for Information Industry to develop and apply the could computing technology.

Also, Shih said that through collaboration with Microsoft, Taiwanese R&D institute and enterprises can gain invaluable experience in development of application services based on the technology. Besides, he added, technically supported by Microsoft, the government can also effectively assist local enterprises to apply such technology to step up development of the island`s emerging industries as creative culture and e-book reader sectors.

… Microsoft has also signed a cooperation agreement with Taiwan`s largest telecom company, Chunghwa Telecom Co., to develop application services and platforms based on the technology.

5. Microsoft to Pour 90% R&D Resources Into Cloud Computing (2010/10/28)

There are many opportunities for Taiwanese OEMs/ODMs (original equipment /design manufacturers) in the “cloud computing” era, due mainly to strong demand for data-center construction and hardware such as servers, according to Zhang Yaqin, corporate vice president of Microsoft and chairman of Microsoft`s Asia-Pacific R&D Group.

In addition, Zhang said, Taiwanese information technology (IT) hardware makers have enjoyed strong advantages in making terminal products.

In the future, Zhang said at a recent IT industry trend forum held in Taiwan that major battlefields of the IT industry would lie in platforms, cloud computing, and portable devices. Any company that wins in the three fields would be the next-generation leader, Zhang said.

6. Multibillion Cloud Computing Projects Kick Off in Taiwan (2010/07/09)

At a cloud-computing forum recently held in Taipei, attending Taiwan government officials and top executive of Taiwan`s No.1 telecom carrier announced the commencements of their five-year, multibillion-dollar cloud computing projects.

Government representatives said the government will funnel NT$24 billion (US$750 million at US$1:NT$32) in five years into cultivating Taiwan`s cloud-computing industry, with the ultimate goal set to transform the island`s information-communications technology (ICT) industry into the cloud-computing industry.

Chunghwa Telecom Co., Ltd. will invest NT$40 billion (US$1.2 billion) in five years to set up the island`s biggest cloud-operation and data centers, the company`s chairman, S.J. Lu, vowed,

To smoothen the development of the Taiwan industry as expected, a cloud-computing alliance representing around 80 of the island`s manufacturers will set up a system-test platform, according to Lu, who is chairman of the alliance.

7. Gartner Says IT Spending in China Will Reach $216.7 billion in 2010 (2010/05/07)

… the IT economy in China is driven by large verticals, rather than by consumer IT spending; however, it is slowly evolving toward the consumer market.

… Demand from Chinese companies for emerging technologies like software-as-a-service (SaaS), virtualization, cloud computing, unified communications and green IT is low but rising. IT vendors should help their channel partners continue to build skill sets around these emerging technologies, as spending on these technologies may help drive IT spending to 2013 and beyond.

8. MIT-invented IOT Seen as Moneymaker for Taiwan and China (2010/06/29)

Even in this age of lightning speed Internet communication and technologies, the concept of IOT (Internet of Things), attributed to the 1999-founded Auto-ID Center of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), is reportedly just catching on with firms in Taiwan and China. IOT, arguably the Net-era sibling of the original universal bar code that is still ubiquitous and tracks goods in quantifiable terms, is manifested as a self-configuring wireless network of sensors whose purpose is to interconnect RFID-tagged routine things via the Internet.

Companies in Taiwan and China eager to tap business opportunities of Internet of Things will form an alliance in late June to develop industry standards for their operations in Greater China.

The alliance will consist of telecoms from China such as China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom, as well as those from Taiwan as Chunghwa Telecom, Far EasTone Telecom and Taiwan Mobile. Such move reflects the telecoms` optimism about the potential of IOT, touted as the next major moneymaker in telecommunications valued at US$1 trillion worldwide by 2020, as well as seen by leading economies as a pivotal industry to drive growth and offset economic downturns.
[More information: Heavyweight Manufacturers Co-open Cross-Strait IOT Alliance (2010/07/21); ??? “Sensor China” Internet of Things Alliance established in our city, Wuxi Daily (2010-6-28) ??? <<< the exact relationship is not yet clear ]

President Barrack Obama of the U.S. reportedly equates IOT with green energy in degree of importance, believing these two key sectors can generate short and long term benefits.

Futuristic Inventory Management

As with the UPC or barcode, industry executives say that if daily objects like canned goods, books, shoes or auto parts are integrated with micro-identifications that are linked via the Internet, depleting stock or product waste will be minimized as suppliers can track effectively and instantly inventory levels, whether in Mumbai or the Mojave Desert. Industry watchers say that IOT can theoretically encode 50 to 100 trillion objects and track their movements via the Net.

China Mobile president J.Z. Wang summarizes IOT as “extensive sensing, reliable transmission, and intelligent treatment.” Market analysts at the Topology Research Institute, a Taiwan-based market consultant, cites a real-world product incorporating extensive sensing: the world`s first IOT-enabled fridge that was recently introduced by the Haier Group, China`s No.1 household appliance maker. Linked via the Net to the supermarket, the fridge has a display panel that tells the user freshness of foods in the supermarket as well as characteristics, origins of food stored in the freezer.

Upbeat Outlook

Despite its budding stage in China, revenue from the IOT sector as from infrared sensors and RFID manufacturing is expected to top US$14.7 billion by the end of this year and US$36.7 billion by 2015.

During a tour in August 2009 of the Wuxi Internet of Things Research Institute, Chinese premier J.B. Wen proposed to set up the “Experience China” center to enable the world to experience everything in China through IOT applications. Now upgraded to a national organization, the center in Wuxi, Jiangsu Province is China`s first IOT city.

Also China has invited Taiwan`s IOT developers to visit the officially-invested IOT facilities in Wuxi, with the invitees including Chunghwa Telecom, D-Link, Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI), GemTek, First International Telecom, Tatung, and Alpha Networks.

Wen`s IOT vision and instructions have spawned a slew of developments: Since early this year, China has accelerated interconnecting telecom networks, telecasting and broadcasting networks and the Internet, offering subscribers on a single platform wide ranging services including voice, data and telecasting and broadcasting, with the triple-play network considered the foundation of China`s IOT future.

Vice Chairman of Chinese National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) X.Q. Zhang says that the commission will aggressively promote six measures to develop IOT and other emerging industries in China, including interconnecting the three networks, inspiring investments in IOT projects, and creating demand for IOT applications.

IOT Fever

Apparently China is serious about building the IOT sector in the nation. Chengdu, capital city of the southwestern province of Sichuan, announced in May a municipal IOT project with estimated revenue of US$4.4 billion; Guangzhou, the capital city of the southernmost province of Guangdong, announced plans to generate IOT revenue of US$14.7 billion in five years; Shannxi Province has launched an IOT alliance; Jiangxu Province has started a plan to build an IOT industry valued at US$58.8 billion; and Beijing announced the establishment of a national committee to set IOT standards.

Y.J. Lee, a senior market researcher at Topology, advises Taiwan`s IOT developers to watch closely China`s standardization of its RFID and electronic-labels, as well as try to work with China`s agency on IOT protocols based on its homegrown TD-SCDMA 3G technology and take part in China`s IOT infrastructural projects. Lee also believes that entering China`s market and working with its standard-setters will help Taiwan`s IOT developers penetrate other emerging IOT markets, as well as become a dominant global player.

Lee notes that Taiwan`s IOT developers lag their Chinese counterparts as China Mobile, China Unicom, Invengo Information Technology and Tongfang in terms of network and service technologies, as China offers opportunities for field testing of integrated systems. In contrast, Taiwan is ahead of China in integrated-circuit design, components and equipment manufacturing, making the two sides more friend than foe.

Taiwan Makers Contracted

As such, the Newland Group in China, recognized as the No.1 IOT equipment supplier in Greater China, recently announced it would contract Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., Ltd., United Microelectronics Corp. (UMC), Largan Precision Co., Ltd. and Faraday Technology Corp. as suppliers. [See also: Newland Europe & Taiwan.]

[From that recent announcement: “Wang said she had approached Chairman Terry Gou of the Hon Hai Group and Honorary Vice Chairman John Hsuan of UMC over cooperation deals on Internet of Things. She added that the Internet of Things industry in mainland China and that in Taiwan can complement each other with their own advantages. For instance, Taiwan is good at raid frequency identification (RFID), high-end chips, barcode test, and consumer-premise equipment while the mainland is adept at matrix code and sensor transmission. Newland’s executives pointed out that Newland is moving to integrate upstream, middle-stream and downstream sectors of Internet of Things to constitute a complete supply chain for the mainland’s Internet of Things market.”]

Newland is one of the three Chinese manufacturers contracted by China Telecom, China`s No.1 telecom carrier, to supply IOT equipment.

Regarding Taiwan`s lack of field testing of integrated systems, Topology`s Lee suggests Taiwan`s IOT developers focus on applications for urban life, transportation, residence, finance, retail, energy, production, and agriculture.

Wireless Sensor Network

Y.S. Hsieh, another Topology analyst, suggests Taiwan`s equipment supplier emphasize wireless sensor network, with service providers to use the network to develop IOT applications like intelligent data transmission system, homecare for seniors, as well as home and community security. She notes that although manufacturing of WSN equipment as chips, modules and end equipment is mature in Taiwan, very few developers are capable of integrating such equipment and no open interoperability platforms have been set up on the island. These deficiencies hamstring development of Taiwan`s IOT industry, she stresses.

China`s significance in global RFID manufacturing, including manufacturing of tag, reader, and infrastructure equipment, also strengthens its IOT development, according to watchers in Taiwan. China`s RFID strength is driven by robust demand, which totaled around US$1.4 billion in 2008, with the global market valued at US$5.2 billion, up from 2007`s US$4.9 billion.

9. Taiwan Sees Sunny Future in Cloud Computing (2010/07/22)

The government of Taiwan is vigorously working with the island`s information and communications technology (ICT) sector on strategies to facilitate the development of cloud-computing industry. The emerging industry has been singled out as an area that could fast-forward the island`s ICT sector into a leading provider of system-integration services incorporating software and hardware.

Cloud computing is a cost-effective alternative for delivering computing power to organizations over the Internet. Computer hardware, software and information are provided online based on demand, like electricity, and service is charged by usage. Some analysts figure that cloud computing can save a company of 200 employees about 30% on software expenses.

Late last year, the United States Federal Government launched the Apps.gov, a cloud-computing application site, which is a major feature of the Obama Administration`s initiative to cut down operating costs while boosting government efficiency. The federal government is estimated to be able to save US$75 billion by offering administrative services via the cloud site.

Government Support

Taiwan`s government-backed Industrial Economics and Knowledge Center (IEK) estimates that the global market for cloud applications and services will top US$160 billion in 2015. The Executive Yuan, Taiwan`s Cabinet, projects the island`s cloud-computing industry will generate revenue totaling NT$1 trillion (US$31.2 billion at US$1:NT$32) and create 50,000 jobs in 2014.

The government`s first step to materialize its cloud policy is “Government Cloud” or “G Cloud” plan, which will provide contracts to local manufacturers to help them foster cloud computing capability. “G Cloud” will offer applications associated with small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), medical services and healthcare, homeland security, online education, digital content, tax, electronic invoice, trade, and finance services. Applications will be stored in “container data centers,” which eliminate the need to download memory-consuming applications to end-user devices like desktops, laptops, and handheld gadgets.

Senior government officials pointed out that South Korean and United States governments have combined information centers in all government organizations across the two countries into two to three centers and are equipping these centers with cloud-computing capability to cut software leasing costs.

Cloud Computing Alliance

An alliance of 65 Taiwanese manufacturers is planning to co-organize a private company to vie for contracts under the ambitious project. The alliance was launched on April 7 with coordination by ITRI. Alliance members include Wistron, Quanta Computer, Inventec, Accton Technology, Chunghwa Telecom, Far EasTone Telecom, and Taiwan Mobile.

… Chunghwa, Taiwan`s No.1 telecom carrier, will help the government foster Taiwan`s cloud-computing industry with its Internet Data Centers (IDCs) across Taiwan. The company is building a center in Banqiao, Taipei County. … Inventec Corp. Chairman Shiqin Li, expects Taiwan to ship its first integrated cloud-computing system by the end of this year. Insiders of the Taiwan industry estimate that the United States or mainland China would be Taiwan`s first export destination.

Quanta Computer, the world`s No.2 contract supplier of laptops, has entered into alliance with Chunghwa Telecom to set up a cloud-computing platform for enterprises and will open a cloud-computing company at yearend to sell the applications.

The enterprise cloud-computing platform, Quanta`s vice president, T.J. Fang stresses, will not only provide applications to Taiwan`s 80,000 manufacturers but also to the millions of manufacturers in mainland China. He adds that the platform`s applications may be bundled with Quanta`s servers and storage equipment or even as total solutions.

Currently, Quanta`s enterprise cloud-computing applications will at least include enterprise resource planning (ERP), supply-chain management, work-process management, provision of software crucial to product designs, and emergency response centers (ERCs).

According to Fan, Quanta has been involved in cloud-computing development for some time and sees the new IT sector as a chance to evolve into a software-service provider from a hardware manufacturer. “Quanta has established an R&D center to develop application software and expects cloud computing to bring it another NT$1 trillion [US$31 billion] of revenue after notebook-computer production,” he says. He stresses cloud-computing application software can help small and midsize businesses slash software licensing fees.

Microsoft on Board

Taiwan`s strength in developing the cloud-computing industry convinced Microsoft to open a Software and Service Excellence Center (SSEC) in Taiwan, its first on the island and fourth in the world, in early June. Microsoft will work with the first batch of Taiwanese tenants in the center, including Quanta, Inventec and Delta Electronics, to develop new generation of cloud servers.

… Microsoft expects more than 100 Taiwanese ICT companies to join the center in developing cloud computing solutions over the next three years.

Security Concerns

W.N. Jan, a senior consultant and director general of Market Intelligence and Consulting Institute (MIC), categorizes the cloud industry chain into service provision coupled with transmission and service equipment. “MIC`s viewpoint is that service provision involves bigger business opportunities and its business model emphasizes offering services on the Internet. Accordingly, information security will become a top concern in cloud applications,” he notes.

MIC`s surveys, Jan says, show that Taiwan`s enterprises still are hesitant to embrace cloud services all because of security concerns. “CIOs and CTOs are reluctant, or even opposed, to using cloud services,” he stresses. To fix the issue, the Legislative Yuan, he says, is revising an act associated with protection of computer-processed personal data to regulate all enterprises holding personal data.

10. Intel Joins Hands With Taiwan in Developing Cloud-Computing Technology (2010/10/29)

Paul Otellini, president and chief executive officer of Intel, signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on cooperation with the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) yesterday (Oct. 28), aiming to join hands with the Taiwanese government, universities, and enterprises in the development of the cloud-computing industry.

Otellini pointed out that the Internet population will top 4 billion in the coming years, leading to the emergence of various Internet-access devices, such as TV and set-top box, which will bring good business opportunities for both Taiwan and Intel.

He pointed to the tremendous change in the pipeline for Internet-access devices, whose functions will cover intelligent control, two-way interaction, hi-tech sensing, and distant care, saying changes in this sector in one year will equal changes in the past 50 years. In the future, mobile devices will have constant connection with the Internet and digital signals, enabling people to access information and entertainment services anytime, according to him.

Lu Shyue-ching, chairman of Chunghwa Telecom, reported that his company has signed an MOU with Intel for the joint development of cloud-computing technology, as well as close- and open-end platforms for smart TV. The company has also joined Open Data Center Appliance, in order to accelerate the development of cloud-computing technology. In addition, it signed an MOU with NTT.com the other day for the same purpose.

11. Chunghwa Telecom Projects Sales at NT$220B in 2015 (2010/10/19)

The telecom carrier has designated overseas operation, cloud computing, iEN, movie-on-demand and value-added mobile services as major growth drivers for sales over the next five years. Mainland China is set to be the company`s major overseas market as soon as its mainland branch starts operation early next year.

For cloud computing service, the company will spend NT$40 billion (US$1.29 billion) over next five years beginning this year on installation of cloud computing facilities. The service is estimated to drive up the company`s sales over the next 10 years.

12. Chunghwa Telecom Unveils Five-Year Roadmap (2010/07/27)

Over the next five years, the company`s investments will focus on cloud computing, digital convergence, intelligent energy network, information-communication technology, movie-on-demand (MOD) service, value-added mobile service, and reinvested businesses at home and overseas.

Many of the investment projects are associated with the bright future of related markets in mainland China, where the central government has worked out development projects for intelligent energy network and digital convergence industries.

13. Year One for Taiwan`s e-Book Industry (2010/02/09)

Joining the global rush into the rapidly evolving e-book market, Taiwanese e-reader makers are joining hands with content suppliers in launching e-book services whose reach could extend to the huge market across the Taiwan Strait.

Such ventures were at center stage during the 2010 Taipei International Book Exhibition, held at the Taipei World Trade Center on Jan. 27-Feb. 1.

BenQ, for instance, teamed up with eBook Japan to launch eBook Taiwan during the book fair. eBook Taiwan enables readers to tap a bonanza of digital content via its e-reader, dubbed the BenQ nReader.
Jerry Wang, vice chairman of BenQ, claims that the combination of eBook Taiwan and BenQ nReader offers consumers a reading experience approaching that of print publications and enables them to buy books with just a touch on the e-reader.

eBook Taiwan is an open-end platform with a webpage featuring a safe, stable, smooth, and simple design. It serves as a neutral outlet for Taiwan`s digital-content providers, with a reasonable sharing of profits and a DRM (digital rights management) mechanism capable of offering publishers full protection of their rights. Thanks to the support of cutting-edge technologies such as a high-clarity, high-compression post-production tool, chapter-based sales management, and the ability to support multiple formats including ePub, EFI, PDF, and TXT, e-books can be easily put on the shelf of the platform. This capability enhances timeliness and enriches the content of the platform, which in turn will boost consumer willingness to use it.

In addition to the provision of popular books and magazines in traditional Chinese characters, simplified Chinese characters, and Japanese, eBook Taiwan also offers publication and delivery of magazines simultaneously with the print versions. More than 10,000 books and magazines covering a variety of fields are now available on the platform, and readers can even access parts of books and summaries of feature reports in magazines before placing purchase orders.

In view of the e-book surge, market insiders are calling 2010 “year one for Taiwan`s e-book industry.” This underscores the rosy outlook of the industry, which has been incorporated into the government`s flagship development plan for the digital content industry. The government predicts that the production value of the local e-book content industry will hit NT$30 billion (US$937 million at NT$32:US$1) in two years and NT$100 billion (US$3 billion) in four years.

Attracted by the huge market potential, growing numbers of domestic electronics firms have been jumping onto the bandwagon for e-readers and related products. The Economics Ministry reports that total investment by local firms in e-readers and components/parts has topped NT$15 billion (US$469 million), with major participants including Prime View, BenQ, Delta, Hon Hai, Gold Circuit Electronics, and ASUS.

The Topology Research Institute predicts that Taiwan`s e-reader market will reach 100,000 units this year, compared with 1 million in the Chinese market and only a fraction of 9.1 million globally (including 6.8 million in the U.S.). Topology believes that the global e-reader market will remain in the fledgling stage for two more years before embarking on a period of vigorous development.

14. HTC Debuts Two New Models in London (2010/09/16)

Along with the new models, HTC also debuted a free Internet service, dubbed HTCSense-com, which will enable subscribers to tap cloud-computing service offered by HTC. The service is similar to Microsoft’s MyPhone service and Apple’s MobileMe service. The service, for instance, enables owners to give directions to their lost phones via the Internet, such as making it ring, sending messages to the phone for the obtainer, locking up the phone, or even eliminating data stored in the phone.

15. Taiwan`s Hi-Tech Manufacturers Go to U.S. to Solicit Talents (2010/09/13)

Delegation members planned to offer a total of 1,200 jobs covering R&D specialists, market researchers, market managers, and accountants.

The delegation was accompanied by a cloud-computing alliance, which would visit Intel, Microsoft and IBM.

16. BenQ-AUO Group Eyes US$22 B.-beyond Revenue This Year: Chairman Lee (2010/09/01)

According to Lee, BenQ-AUO will focus its future development on medical care, cloud computing, green energy, and environment protection etc.

BenQ-AUO group has opened a hospital in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province of China with more than 3,000 beds. The group is scheduled to inaugurate another big hospital by the end of 2011 in Suzhou, Jiangsu Province of China.

17. Taiwan`s Top 3 Telecom Companies Zero in on Market for Application Services based on Cloud Computing (2010/02/09)

Not to lag behind Chunghwa Telecom, Taiwan Mobile and Far EasTone have been stepping up their business deployment in the emerging segment for cloud computing technology-based services.

For instance, Taiwan Mobile has cooperated with Fubon Financial Group on constructing an extensive cloud computing network for their respective subsidiaries.

… Far EasTone has also been in talk with HP, IBM, Quanta Computer, Data Systems Consulting Co., Ltd. and related software developers on formation of a cooperative alliance, in which the telecom company will take charge of building a cloud computing platform and other members will supply needed software and hardware for operation of the platform.

18. Inventec Announces Venturing Into Cloud Computing, Online Gaming (2009/12/16)

Inventec Corp. of Taiwan recently announced plans to step into the high-potential cloud-computing business, and will provide software download online by the year-end, as well as moving into online gaming in 2010.

… Chiu Chuan-chen, president of Inventec`s software business division, pointed out that his company has been cultivating the software business for more than 10 years and now is the right time to commercialize products. Inventec`s software business would first focus on two major fields, including the intelligent learning and healthcare, while keeping an eye on online gaming.

19. Chunghwa, Fujitsu Collaborate on E-Commerce and Others (2009/11/17)

The pact is part of Chunghwa Telecom`s efforts to enhance cooperative ties with Japanese hi-tech manufacturers. … In the near future, Chunghwa plans to work with Japanese internet-TV, digital-content and TV shopping service providers.

20. Hon Hai Joins Forces With III to Develop Cloud Computing Software (2009/06/03)

Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., Ltd., the largest EMS (electronic manufacturing service) provider, has joined forces with the government-funded Institute for Information Industry (III) of Taiwan to develop Cloud Computing application software as the first Taiwanese company to get engaged in the field.

Hon Hai and III will seek financial aid from the government for establishing the first lab of Cloud Computing as a joint venture between industries and the government on the island. So far, the Ministry of Economic Affairs has already lifted restrictions on official subsidization of development of related application software, paving the way for local companies to dedicate their energies to the field.

Hon Hai has decided to invest a total of NT$1.9 billion (US$58.46 million at US$1: NT$32.5) in constructing an R&D building in Kaohsiung Software Technology Park, southern Taiwan, to specialize in research and development of digital contents and information service offerings.

On the other hand, by investing in R&D of Cloud Computing, Hon Hai is to diversify its business operation into information services from manufacturing. Furthermore, the firm plans to apply Cloud Computing platform to the long-distance health care, showing its determination to venture into the medical care industry.

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