Posts tagged could

Why The Hortonworks IPO Could Jeopardize Other Big Data Companies

We’re finally going to get a Big Data IPO, with Hortonworks filing its S-1 this month. Yet I’m not hearing much cheering from the people who have the most to gain in the short term: venture capitalists. In fact, over the course of the last two weeks, I’ve talked with a number of VCs and each of them has expressed the same concern:

Hortonworks filed to go public way too early.

Given its still shaky financials, the risk isn’t merely that Hortonworks will struggle as a public company. The bigger risk is that a weak IPO will hold back other Big Data companies with better financials.

Rocket Ships Require Lots Of Fuel

In some respects, Hortonworks is a rocket ship, more than doubling top-line revenue growth. For the first nine months of the year, it pulled in over $33 million in revenue, more than double what it did last year. 

This growth rate actually separates it from other subscription pricing-based peers, as Tien Anh Nguyen highlights:

The problem, however, is the source and cost of that revenue. For the former, as Gartner analyst Merv Adrian showcases

Hortonworks’ 3 largest customers (Yahoo, Teradata, and Microsoft) account for 37.4% of its revenue–and two are investors. The biggest is Microsoft, at 22.4% now–it was 55.3% for the year ended April 30, 2013. That sort of concentration never makes investors too happy, and though it is declining it’s still sizable.

So that’s one risk.

The second is the cost of that revenue. Hortonworks has traditionally spent $3 for every $1 it makes. While recent results are marginally better—Hortonworks lost $87 million en route to acquiring $33 million in revenue in the January-September period this year—they still reflect the “spend big or go home” mentality that afflicts many Big Data companies.

As former Cowen & Co. analyst and current independent consultant Peter Goldmacher told me recently, most of the billions Big Data startups have raised “is going to go-to-market endeavors,” not necessarily differentiated product functionality that enterprises will pay to use. 

It’s therefore crazy to hear Nguyen laud Hortonworks for:

spending at the level of companies 2-3 times its size—literally “punching above its weight”—ostensibly to acquire customers and maintain absolute product leadership.

Since when do we call it “punching above one’s weight” to spend more than peers?

Product Differentiation?

And since when does Hortonworks have “absolute product leadership”? It doesn’t. Gartner calls Hortonworks’ “data lake” message a “fallacy.”  Basho CTO Dave McCrory is not so kind: he calls it a “data garbage heap.” 

Hortonworks is a good company filled with smart people, some of whom are friends. But Hortonworks’ strategy is to contribute all of its intellectual property to open-source communities. By definition, the only product differentiation it has is what competitors decide to give it.

As Adrian points out, Hortonworks’ “R&D spend enables their competitors too. It won’t separate them quickly and dramatically from the pack any better to have much more spending on either or both.”

Whatever one may feel about the moral superiority of this strategy, after over 15 years of vendors trying to use open source as a business model, only one company—Red Hat—has managed to do so successfully. (And even that success is subject to question, as Graham Neray points out.)

I Needed The Money…

Regardless, Wikibon analyst Jeff Kelley posits that Hortonworks “needs capital to compete with Cloudera after [its] huge Intel investment.” That sum amounted to a mighty $740 million concession by Intel that its own Big Data plans were better served through Cloudera than building its own Hadoop distribution.

Still, if Hortonworks needs money to compete with Cloudera, $100 million comes up $640 million short.

More to the point, while $100 million is a lot of money, an IPO is perhaps the hardest way for Hortonworks to raise that sum, as Gartner analyst Nick Heudecker intimates:

But let’s be clear: Hortonworks doesn’t really need the money. It currently sits on over $111 million in cash, cash equivalents and short-term investments. It’s swimming in money. 

Betting The Big Data Market On HDP

I’m sure there are compelling reasons for Hortonworks to file, although it’s not comforting when the best Adrian could come up with is “if not now, when?” You look at New Relic’s S-1, filed on the same day as Hortonworks’, and you think: “This is a company that deserves to be public.” It has over $100 million in annual revenue and ever-narrowing losses.

Hortonworks’ filing doesn’t inspire the same confidence. Rather, it creates all sorts of uncertainty about Hadoop and the overall Big Data market: whether it’s viable and whether its leading vendors can eke out a living.

Cloudera was quick to insist that it can. With more than double Hortonworks’ revenue (the company will do over $100 million this year) and a better profit/loss profile, Cloudera still feels it should wait for an IPO. 

Of course, maybe Hortonworks is simply putting a public price tag on the company. I’ve heard from several VCs that they expect Hortonworks to get acquired on the way to the IPO altar.

If this happens, Goldmacher’s contention that the first Big Data vendor to get acquired will win makes Hortonworks’ premature filing seem opportune:

The minute an acquisition happens, your distribution lead is smoked. Customers don’t want to buy products. They want to buy a suite that fits into their existing architecture. Once a Big Data startup is bought, suddenly that product has a compelling, comfortable story for the enterprise.

This isn’t necessarily good for the market or for customers, but it may be perfect for Hortonworks. That may be enough to countenance moving on an IPO before its financials justify it.

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SearchCap: SEO Mistakes That Could Penalize Your Site, Bing Ads Offers Close Variants On Phrase Match & More

Below is what happened in search today, as reported on Search Engine Land and from other places across the web. From Search Engine Land: SEO & SSL: A Conversation With Jon Henshaw Of Raven Tools Google says it will boost rankings for HTTPS sites, but, in an interview by contributor Clark…

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.

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4 Easy & Honest SEO Mistakes That Could Penalize Your Site – Search Engine Land

Search Engine Land
4 Easy & Honest SEO Mistakes That Could Penalize Your Site
Search Engine Land
Sometimes it happens through carelessness, sometimes through black-hat techniques and, sometimes, through honest SEO mistakes. I've watched four such mistakes happen recently. These sites were honestly attempting to follow SEO best practices, but …

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4 Easy & Honest SEO Mistakes That Could Penalize Your Site

You did everything right when optimizing your site for search — or so you thought. Contributor Neil Patel explains where you may have gone wrong.

The post 4 Easy & Honest SEO Mistakes That Could Penalize Your Site appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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Amazon Echo Could Sneak Voice Search Into Users’ Living Rooms

Last Thursday, Amazon quietly released Echo, a device that uses voice command technology to answer questions, play music, and make shopping lists. Will the company take the next step to voice-controlled shopping?

View full post on Search Engine Watch – Latest

The First Microsoft Lumia Smartphone Could Be Here On Tuesday

Microsoft, fresh from excising the Nokia name from its smartphones, is preparing to introduce its first devices under the Microsoft Lumia brand on November 11.

It’s the briefest sliver of an announcement pushed out via email and posted on its blog, with one headline, one sentence and a hashtag:

Microsoft is delivering the power of everyday mobile technology to everyone.

Come back on November 11, to find out more!


The device in the accompanying graphic is orange, so the company may be continuing its pursuit of fruit-colored handsets. Considering the timing of the announcement, we might even see Microsoft Lumias hit the market in time for the holiday shopping rush.

See also: Goodbye, Nokia Lumia—Hello, Microsoft Lumia

But anyone hoping for a high-end Lumia, no matter the name, might be disappointed. According to recent rumors, a low-end smartphone (referred to as RM-1090) could be a new Microsoft device with a 5-inch HD display, 1.2 GHz Snapdragon 200 processor, a 5MP camera and 1900 milliampere-hour battery.

If that’s what Microsoft plans to pull out next week, then it will be pretty anti-climactic after drastic moves to amputate Nokia’s staff and brand name from Microsoft’s mobile business. We’ll find out on Tuesday. 

Image courtesy of Microsoft

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You Could Make A Great Horror Movie Just By Compiling Cutscenes From Silent Hill 2

Editor’s note: This was originally published by our partners at Kill Screen

I watch a lot of horror movies. Or, I did, at least. 

In the same way that at some point spicy food becomes the only type of food that certain people want to eat, or that a person continues to drink harder and harder alcohol until their liver fails, I hit a point midway through adolescence where I no longer understood the desire to sit down and watch a movie that wouldn’t, at minimum, feature someone being stabbed to death. The net goal was to make the people sitting in the room with me uncomfortable. I may have been doing all of this just to get more of the couch to myself.

And so it would make sense that I also love horror games, but the opposite is in fact true: I hate horror games, even though I play them quite regularly. The sardonic remove that makes viewing horror films so invigorating is stripped away and I am just stuck yelling at the TV screen for my character to move faster, goddammit, why does he turn like that, run! By design, these are stressful experiences. 

For more stories about video games and culture, follow@killscreen on Twitter.

These competing emotions made beating Silent Hill 2 a powerfully non-fun experience for me, playing as the game so directly does to both of these opinions in direct succession. On one hand is a game of deep anti-player mechanism: a thudding stretch of exploration and muddy combat through a sprawling, ugly city, in which the player’s primary activity is to pick things up and put them places, often with little inherent logic. 

I conquered this expanse with a walkthrough on hand, shouting directions to my roommate in an attempt to bee-line as quickly as possible between the various save points and scripted events. When one of us got exhausted, the other would take the controller. The amount of forethought and careful planning put into each portion probably resulted in a near-perfect run-through, but trust that I feel no pride over this accomplishment. I played the game as a coward would.

Silent Hill 2 Is A Cinematic Marvel

The reward, though, was getting to enjoy one of the three or four best narratives in the history of video games, and I mean that in the cinematic sense: these cutscenes are an audio-visual feast, in their murky way. Because that cathode-ray fog that defined the first Silent Hill is, in the sequel, all-encompassing. 

See also: Hollywood Needs To Get Behind Smart-Home Horror

Walls bleed into carpets, a big red-brown run, and the characters look soft, human, although still firmly on the other side of the uncanny valley. The morality is foggy; the unreality is foggy. In one of the most singular scenes in the game, the protagonist questions a man who won’t stop puking into a toilet. 

We barely see either actor’s face; the camera just stays in the dark hallway behind them, slowly twisting at a spectral angle as the protagonist plies the stranger for info, and that stranger responds by vomiting ceaselessly into the toilet. This too is the fog.

Throughout this scene—and every other one in the game—the characters speak patiently, in soft, unpracticed tones. The dialogue comes at the alien clip (full of stops and starts, weird peaks and valleys) of so many Japanese-produced video games, but here it feels in service of the game’s tone, adding to the lost, dream-like feel. 

The first chunk of the game is spent chasing some little kid around the city, and when you finally find her, giggling under a bed in a pitch-black abandoned hospital, she calmly intones, “What’s the big deal?” When the protagonist realizes she may not be from this world, his response is clipped, “But, last year, Mary was already …” the ellipsis effectively ending the sentence. Then, perking up: “This is no place for a kid! There are all sorts of strange things around here.” The duo jogs back out into hell, never so much scared as dazed.

See also: Hello Neo: Nokia Exists Only In Movie Form

That deeply standard-definition presentation, and the raw, amateurish performances, combine to create the feel of a medium playing to its weaknesses—and then transcending them. 

Video game actors, even the hyper-real LA Noire or Kevin Spacey types, do not look like humans, as we know quite well, and their voice acting is categorically incompetent. But in Silent Hill 2 these limitations congeal into virtues, the stiltedness of the acting and blurriness of the textures becoming bedrock components of this particular vision of hell. It’s a case of the software matching its hardware, the way James Brown’s drums kick harder on the vinyl they were meant to be played from.

But that’s the interesting thing about the game’s aesthetic, singular as it is: it’s near-impossible to experience today, unless you own the PlayStation 2/Xbox original and a fat old TV to play it on. In what is perhaps the quintessential resolution-gate in video games, Konami remade Silent Hill 2 (and its lesser sequel) in HD, to the immediate outcry of its most ardent fans. 

How Konami Got The Silent Hill Remake Wrong

This is the type of thing I normally sleep through quite soundly without ever acknowledging. But then, the type of people who would ardently appreciate a game about murdering a sick woman are strange birds to begin with, and in this case they were spot-on: Konami did alter the delicate blend of good and bad that defined the original. That fog that swept around and through every scene, indoors and out, was turned into a weird scrim of white stuff hanging behind the characters, who, now in crisp HD, look pulled from the Thunderbirds:

Most damningly, they re-recorded all of the dialogue with new voice actors. That haunted, diffuse quality is replaced with the same stuff that plagues all other video game cutscenes—specifically, Troy Baker. Eurogamer, for their part, covered the hell out of this controversy as it happened, all of which seems like gamer-caterwauling until you get your mitts dirty and listen to the actual changes. Ignore if you can the general tone of the video below; its juxtapositions make its case strongly enough:

All of which has put me in a bit of a bind. Over the years, I’ve become less indulgent of horror movies’ whims, which rarely challenge themselves or subvert expectations but blankly deliver, in the way one might expect a pornographic film to. And so I’ve doubled down on the horror I know I like—Lynch and Cronenberg and Argento, and, indeed, the cutscenes of Silent Hill 2, which remain inimitable. 

Turning Silent Hill 2 Into Art On YouTube

As I’ve attempted to revisit them, though, I’ve found myself stymied. Everything is on the Internet, and the cutscenes are, but not as I remember them. There is this weird, ambitious attempt to stitch all the cutscenes together, along with gameplay footage, into a coherent movie. (This is a fairly common thing with these games.) There are the weird, bastardized HD versions, on which I must side with the angry fans. And then there’s this loveless compilation of them in glorious standard definition, compiled by a person named “y2jarmyofficial,” a frankly baffling name which is written over the screen in a hot-pink font I can only assume is called “sandals.”

And hey: that sucks. It sucks real bad that y2jarmyofficial went and did that, but over time I’ve come to appreciate it. In a way, it adds to the crappiness so central to the entire Silent Hill 2 experience. When James unloads a pistol from a distinctly Blue Velvet-esque closet at Pyramid Head the violence has the feel of a snuff film. As James confronts a lost soul in a burning stairwell at the game’s operatic climax, y2jarmyofficial stays plastered on the screen, almost mocking the mournfulness of the story. On the other hand, maybe a broken game—a game about brokenness—is unbreakable.

What none of this changes—not the HD remixes, not y2jarmyofficial’s bad font choices, not even Troy Baker—is Akira Yamaoka’s score, which remains unsullied. The Lynch comparisons with the game are easy, but the shoe fits, and Yamaoka’s long, maundering synthesizers are pretty direct evocations of Angelo Badalamenti’s soundtrack work for Lynch. 

See also: Hatsune Miku Is Here To Destroy Everything You Love (And Hate) About Pop Stardom

But Silent Hill 2’s triumph is that Yamaoka doesn’t stop at this evocation, but layers percussive intrigue over top: the almost random vibes of “World of Madness” sound more like Oneohtrix Point Never; “Ashes and Ghost” has more in common with the depravity of early Swans; and the sprightly, almost uptempo “Null Moon” recalls the influential Japanese hip-hop producer Nujabes.

Yamaoka’s soundscapes are what hold Silent Hill 2 together, despite all its wild iterations, and they’re what I’ve come back to over the years, even streaming behind hot-pink YouTube usernames. It’s not enough to say that I just like the soundtrack of the game, but that the soundtrack is emblematic of everything I like about Silent Hill 2. 

Where so much modern horror delights in the mere delivery of gore, or in subtle, inside-baseball variations on that delivery, Silent Hill 2’s pleasures are much smaller; they’re knotty and internal and wholly of its own creation. We normally talk about the series as being psychological, in contrast to perhaps the viscerality of Resident Evil, but I think it’s more than merely psychological. Silent Hill 2 is character horror—it’s personal horror—and it’s all the more remarkable for the dank slop of audio-visual vomit through which it relays its ideas.

My point is that this is worth revisiting, in any old form you can stand it.

More From Kill Screen

For more stories about videogames and culture, follow@killscreen on Twitter.

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How Voice Search Could Affect The Future Of SEO – Forbes

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An Open-Source Standard Could Spur Drone Development

On October 13, the Linux Foundation launched Dronecode, an open-source project to unite coders working on a software standard for unmanned aerial vehicles.

See also: The Era Of The Drone Has Arrived

Drones have different manufacturers and hardware, but generally the software that’s good for one drone should be good for another. Dronecode will keep software developers from having to reinvent the wheel as they build programs for basic drone behaviors.

“Dronecode will encourage the development of open source consumer and commercial UAV software by building and supporting a community of developers and providing them the resources and tools to help them innovate,” the project’s about page reads. “The ultimate goal is to maximize adoption of the project’s code for the benefit of users with cheaper, better, and more reliable UAV software.”

The project is granted legitimacy by founding members deeply rooting in drone production and open-source development, including 3D Robotics, Baidu, Box, DroneDeploy, Intel, Qualcomm and Walkera. As these partners pool their resources, the project will have the starting code it needs to create basic programs for drone delivery, firefighting, filmmaking, and agriculture, among many of the other implementations drones are increasingly used for.

Now, more than 1,200 developers have joined the project, making about 150 code commits per day, sUAS News reports.

See also: How An Open Source Operating System Jumpstarted Robotics Research

A few years ago, the adoption of a uniform programming language for humanoid robotics did wonders for speeding up robotics development. Open-source software like Dronecode hopes to develop may do the same for unmanned aerial vehicles.

Photo by Don McCullough

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3 Loopholes In Android Lollipop Encryption That Could Expose Your Phone Data

Android 5.0 Lollipop, the latest version of Google’s mobile operating software, will indeed shield files, photos and other user information on Android phones from prying eyes. But that protection isn’t quite as all-encompassing as the company’s earlier statements might have led you to think.

A month ago, Google announced that Lollipop would automatically encrypt user data on Android phones, essentially scrambling it so that the police, spies and jealous lovers can’t read your texts and email or snatch up your private pictures. “[E]ncryption will be enabled by default out of the box, so you won’t even have to think about turning it on,” the company’s statement read.

See also: Understanding Encryption: Here’s The Key

On Tuesday, Google provided some more details about how that encryption actually works. New phones that ship with Lollipop will begin encrypting data once they’re turned on, using encryption keys generated internally by Android software and phone hardware (technically, chip-based random-number generators).

Those master keys, according to Adrian Ludwig, Android’s lead security engineer, never leave the device. That means Google has no access to them and can’t provide them to law enforcement or other authorities even if presented with a legal order to do so.

Lollipop’s encryption scheme greatly speeds up the process of protecting users’ stored data, since it starts off with a largely empty phone and then encrypts new data as it’s added. Android has actually allowed users to encrypt their phones for roughly three years, but it didn’t draw attention to the option, which was buried in the settings menu.

See also: Why Google Wants To Padlock The Web

Worse, encryption was irreversible, somewhat clumsy to use (it requires you to enter a decryption password when your phone or tablet starts up, a step Lollipop eliminates) and very slow to initialize. It can take an hour or more to encrypt the data on a typical phone.

But There’s A Catch

Make that three catches, actually.

First, the encryption doesn’t help much if you haven’t set a passcode. Ludwig said studies have shown that roughly have of users don’t set passcodes on their devices, largely because they find it inconvenient to keep entering them dozens of times a day. Lollipop will still encrypt your data, but it will also automatically decrypt it in normal use. So if you don’t have a passcode, much of your information will be available to anyone who picks up your phone.

See also: How Apple Made Its Users Vulnerable To iCloud Theft

Lollipop’s encryption still offers some limited protection even under those circumstances—for instance, by protecting stored data against anyone who tries to read it directly from the phone’s memory. That could shield user passwords and other sensitive data from attackers.

Ludwig said Google is trying hard to address the usability issues with encryption. For instance, Lollipop has another feature that will let you unlock your phone with a trusted device such as a smartwatch. But most users probably aren’t set up to use that sort of feature yet—and it may have drawbacks of its own.

See also: Put Away That Passcode: Android Devices Will Soon Unlock One Another

Second, the encryption process only protects files and photos that are stored in a specific location known as the /data partition. It will not protect anything stored on a removable microSD storage card.

Many Android apps store data directly on the SD card; if you want to protect that, you’ll need to find a separate encryption program. (Some manufacturers such as Samsung include SD-card encryption as an option on their phones.)

Finally, even Lollipop won’t encrypt your data by default if you upgrade to Android 5.0 instead of buying a new phone. That’s by design, since otherwise you could end up waiting 45 minute to an hour or more while the operating system encrypted your files. But it could leave you with a false sense of … well, security, if you upgrade to Lollipop thinking that it will encrypt all your files automatically.

Lead image by Tim RT

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