Report: You will start seeing more tweets in your Google searches

Google and Twitter have rekindled their friendship, according to a new report out from Bloomberg. Twitter will grant access to its tweets to Google, which will start displaying them in search results. Bloomberg says we can expect to see this happen in the first half of 2015.

Previously, Google would occasionally surface tweets but it had to trawl Twitter to pull them itself. Now, Twitter will directly feed the information to Google, automating the process. The tweets will display as soon as they’re posted. It’s similar to a partnership Twitter and Google struck between 2009-2011 that eventually ended after Twitter decided not to renew it.

The news comes on the precipice of Twitter’s fourth quarter earnings call tomorrow. The company has been pulling out all the stops to make itself look stronger prior to the call. It announced a host of new products, from new user instant timelines to direct group messaging, it acquired India-based notifications company ZipDial, and unrolled its new external advertising strategy.

Is Facebook considering venture investing?

Facebook considered investing in Chinese mobile conglomerate Xiaomi, according to sources that dished to Reuters. The deal didn’t pan out for a range of reasons, from political concerns to investment conflicts, but could point toward a new focus for Facebook on strategic investments.

Smartphone maker Xiaomi is one of China’s most promising tech companies, and China is a market that Facebook has been eyeing for some time now. An investment in Xiaomi would potentially give Facebook more power in its ongoing campaign to enter China, where the social media site is currently banned. But such an investment could also anger the Chinese government, causing problems for Xiaomi. Ultimately that concern, plus the fact that Facebook competitor Google is a key Xiaomi partner with its Android platform, kept the deal from going through.

Strategic corporate investing isn’t a new tactic for major corporations. Companies from Google to Intel to Samsung have venture investing arms that do this full time. Even the likes of Walgreens and 7-Eleven have them. It’s actually kind of surprising it’s taken Facebook this long to get in the game. It has served as a partner in venture funds administered by other firms before, like Kleiner Perkins’ sFund and the seed fbFund run by Accel and Founders Fund, but hasn’t built its own branch.

The purpose of corporate investing is two-fold. It’s an investment that can return dividends for a company down the line — see: Yahoo and Alibaba, or even Microsoft and Facebook — but it’s also an opportunity to open doors to partnerships, new talent, and technology; see: Google Maps and Uber. It helps corporations stay on the cutting edge of new developments and keep themselves relevant. But in the past Facebook hasn’t developed this tactic, choosing instead to acquire companies for its fresh talent, technology, and vision needs.

Now might be the time to change that strategy. Facebook is bigger than its ever been before and it’s experimenting with an unprecedented level of new ideas, whether virtual reality (see Oculus Rift) or mobile app development (see Parse). By adding a investment arm, the company can more quickly and easily explore new markets, geographies, and industries, while potentially bringing in returns for itself in the future.

And as others have pointed out, a venture investment arm would also help Facebook retain long-time talent, product managers, designers, and executives who are looking to take the next step in their career and wind up leaving Facebook to do so.

Make your own filters on this Instagram for photo pros

EyeEm, which is like an Instagram for professional photographers, is now attempting to woo Average Joes to the application. With a new update, EyeEm has added a wide range of such tools, like exposure, contrast, and brightness (but not color). Instead of sticking with preset filters, you can make your own.

An animation showing the new EyeEm editing tools.

An animation showing the new EyeEm editing tools.

It brings a few professional-level editing tools to the masses by simplifying them for mobile use. It’s the kind of application that’s unlikely to ever explode with consumers — Instagram beat it to the mainstream — but with 10 million registered users it’s a crowd pleaser for those looking for a little more mobile photo editing control.

With the edit tool update, the company also introduced a feature called “Open Edit,” where you can inspect a posted photo to see what editing options the person used on it. That way you can copy someone’s editing choices (i.e. filter) as a bundle and apply it to any of your photos.

EyeEm's new Open Edit tool

EyeEm’s new Open Edit tool

EyeEm is essentially trying to professionalize mobile photography and mobile photo editing. It makes money through partnerships with companies like Getty, which buys stock images from EyeEm photographers who then share the returns with the photo app. “We use technology to make sure we’re capturing the highest resolution pictures the mobile camera allows,” Markus Spiering, Chief Product Officer (and former head of product at Flickr), told me.

Microsoft Azure: more partnerships, more databases

For many companies in the Big Data and analytics arena, Strata + Hadoop World was the climax of their Fall news cycles. For Microsoft, the pace and sustained duration of the news is a little different. Yes, Microsoft was at Strata + Hadoop World; in fact, along with MapR, it was an Elite Sponsor of the event. But Microsoft is also hosting its TechEd Europe conference this week, and is/has been using that event, and the two weeks in between Strata and Tech Ed, to make more announcements.

Just like (very) old times: Microsoft and IBM
At the end of last week’s update, I told you about Microsoft’s partnership with Cloudera, and the advent of Cloudera on Azure. That was significant on its own. But no sooner did my update post online, than Microsoft and IBM announced their own partnership. The gist of that tie-up involves IBM Enterprise software running on Azure and Microsoft Enterprise software running on IBM Softlayer’s cloud.

Put Hadoop aside for the moment, because the IBM partnership means Azure’s relational database offerings are now second to none. Azure customers can run Azure SQL Database (a Platform as a Service flavor of SQL Server); SQL Server on Azure VM’s (Redmond’s Infrastructure as a Service tier); Oracle’s flagship database (through a partnership announced in June of last year) and now, with the IBM partnership, Azure customers will be able to run DB2. If your RDBMS tastes run more to the open source side of things, then you’d still be sitting pretty on Azure, as flavors of both MySQL and Postgres are offered there (through third parties ClearDb and Dynamic Deploy, respectively) as well.

BitYota treks to Azure from AWS and Rackspace
There’s more on the Azure relational database front, but this time in the MPP data warehouse (DW) department. Cloud DW vendor BitYota announced last week the availability of its Data Warehouse Services (DWS) on Microsoft Azure. That gives the Redmond cloud its first competitive story against the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Redshift MPP cloud data warehouse offering. I spoke with BitYota about its Azure offering this past Wednesday, when it was announced. The company told me that while DWS has been available on both AWS and Rackspace for some time, that the company is getting an increasing amount of Enterprise customer requests for DWS, which in turn motivated BitYota to jump on the Azure bandwagon.

It sure looks like the cloud DW space is heating up. In last week’s update I covered Snowflake Computing‘s entry into the space. Now add BitYota on Azure, and consider that Redshift is one of AWS’ hottest and fastest growing services, and you start to get the picture. This does beg one question though: when will Microsoft get a cloud MPP story of its own going?  Its Analytics Platform System, which includes the Parallel Data Warehouse version of SQL Server is a very good product. Offering some flavor of it in the cloud may help get product adoption to a level befitting of the product’s quality.

MPP offerings aside, I’m guessing we haven’t heard the end of Azure and data. TechEd Europe announcements will continue through Thursday and I’d be very surprised if we didn’t get even more announcements around data services on Azure, likely based on Microsoft’s own technology this time. Stay tuned.

Kafka’s metamorphosis
Despite the post-Strata calm, Microsoft and its partners are not the only organizations making announcements around updates. For example, the Apache Kafka project announced a new release of its own Monday. Version 0.8.2-beta offers things like a new Java producer, delete topic support and per-topic configuration of preference for consistency over availability. If you’re a pub-sub message queue geek, that’s hot stuff. I’ll admit that if you’re not in that sub-culture, you might find it a bit dry. But try working on your empathy, because Apache Kafka is gaining great momentum in the Hadoop world.

SAS cozies to Pivotal HD and Impala
And in the commercial software world, data science powerhouse SAS last week announced a new version of its Visual Analytics product. Enhancements in the new version include high-speed loading from SAP HANA, support for Pivotal’s HD Hadoop distribution and Cloudera’s Impala SQL-on-Hadoop engine. SAS’ press release also lists mobile BI apps, goal seeking, path analysis and deeper sentiment analysis in the manifest of new features. Not too shabby.

Another thing that’s not too shabby? The length of this week’s post. After doing “core dump”-style posts the last two weeks, I’m calling this one at 750.

Benioff decides Microsoft is not a ‘disaster’ after all

Remember when Marc Benioff, the CEO of Salesforce, called Microsoft a ‘disaster’ last September at Techcrunch, and said that Bill Gates should return as CEO? And then in January this year, at the company’s Salesforce 1 World Tour he continued the theme that Microsoft needs to push ‘the reset button on vision’.

I have to say that I agreed with his January comments when he said them. However, it seems that he and I both agree that Satya Nadella, the new CEO at Microsoft, has been making forays in that direction.

This week, Microsoft and Salesforce have announced a ‘global, strategic partnership’, principally oriented around integration of Salesforce into Office 365, and the rollout of Salesforce1 on Windows and Windows 8.1.

This is an effort on the Microsoft side to promote Office 365 as the core business work context, today, allowing users to ‘access, share, edit and collaborate on Office content from within Salesforce and on Salesforce1 using Office Mobile, Office for iPad and Office 365′, and to connect that to OneDrive for Business and SharePoint Online as virtual file repositories.

What Nadella was unable to do was convince Benioff to host Salesforce’s CRM platform on Microsoft Azure, which would have been a great support for the cloud computing platform. There was a vestigial support, as Benioff announced in a conference call that it would use Azure for ExactTarget ‘development and testing’, as reported by Mary Jo Foley. Benioff also said Salesforce would continue to use SQL Server as the database for ExactTarget.

This last concession represents the battle between Microsoft and Oracle in the enterprise SQL server market, and is a cascade from Benioff’s praise for Oracle back January when he was slamming Microsoft’s lack of vision. Salesforce is built on Oracle, a relationship that MIcrosoft would love to scramble.

So, Benioff is playing off Microsoft and Oracle, getting license concessions on both sides, I would bet, and offering up verbal support for one or the other database competitor as the occasion warrants. A very clever poker player.

This time, Microsoft is the recipient of Benioff’s good will, although we will have to see what real impact any of this has on Windows, Windows mobile devices, Office 365, SharePoint, or OneDrive sales. Whatever it is, it can’t hurt Microsoft, and at least Benioff isn’t slighting Nadella for lack of vision. At least not this week.

May 100 Amazons bloom?

There is of course no greater example of an enterprise making a business from selling excess cloud capacity than Amazon springing AWS from its loins.

David Linthicum, the cloud curator for Gigaom Research, notes that some other businesses are tempted to monetize a little excess capacity or to otherwise position themselves favorably by becoming small-scale cloud providers themselves. In asking, “What’s up with enterprises becoming cloud providers?“, David finds that such companies are actually most often providing services to customers or even to partners as an enhancement to their business relationships.

So no, they’re not angling to become Amazons. Primarily it’s a ready way to share information or access to internal applications in a secure and controlled environment–and to bring customers and partners further into their enterprise ecosystem.


It’s showtime: Facebook’s f8 conference set for Sept. 22

Facebook has begun sending out invites for its annual f8 event set for September 22 in San Francisco. Despite its tagline as a developer conference, f8 2011 is not likely to be a snoozy hacker meetup — some splashy announcements are said to be in the works.