One of my must-reads is I, Cringely. I've been a fan even before he "Cringley'd" me in 2002. Many Cringley posts are provocative and throught provoking, but he had a doozy yesterday - Avram Miller says Steve Jobs has one more Apple intro.
Then I read Miller's post - How Apple crushed Google in the fall of 2015 from my book "the Future History of Technology".
As I was sipping my coffee this morning and my wife Tina was rushing to leave to catch her bus, I persuaded her (just barely) to listen to me read her part of Miller's article, and then went on to explain why I thought Miller's idea was so plausible. She fixed me in a steely gaze and said "I look forward to reading your article on your blog." So, here goes. Thanks, Honey.
My first observation is another one of those things that you either get about Apple, or don't - Apple's customers just want stuff to work. They're willing to pay Apple's prices to get a product with a low hassle factor - that works reliably, repeatedly, and when it breaks, you can get help quickly and efficiently. You just have to go to the average Apple store to see just how profound this effect is - the average Apple store is packed with people. Most are buying things, but the ones that aren't buying are getting help with their existing Apple product.
So, Miller's right that there's an existing base of Apple users ready to try a search capablity that doesn't spam them like Google and Bing and Yahoo! are doing.
My second observation is the mystery of Apple building enormous data centers (and according to "CHRISGRAY", a commenter on Miller's post, buying existing data centers). Most observers on Apple's data center activity have simply asked "why so big"? You don't need that much data center to do what Apple's currently doing, even projecting forward to Apple doing something like buying Netflix (total speculation on my part) or maintaining each user's music and video collections totally in iCloud. Siri apparently isn't that compute-intensive (or, per my experiences with it overall, not compute-intensive enough). So, adding on a search capability to what Apple is already doing begins to make sense of what Apple could do with so much datacenter capability.
My third observation is a leap that as far as I am aware, unique to me. This is total speculation. The biggest factor in data centers is watts per "compute function" - how much electrical power does it take to accomplish a calculation... a search? If you look at the rack of an average data center, you'd see something that's vaguely recognizable as the successor to a desktop PC. It'll have big Intel processors that are air-cooled or even water-cooled. It will have sticks of RAM, sticks of cache memory, and lots of disks, usually spinning, but more and more, solid state. Conceptually, it's a PC.
But Apple thinks differently. Unlike Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Microsoft, Apple builds things. They're used to... comfortable... building things. Apple likes building things, and they're good at it. Apple has even built servers. So, what if... in their data centers, Apple is building their own servers around the 64-bit A7 processor that they use in their current leading-edge products? Two things immediately come to mind from that possibility. The first is the compute-density would be astonishing - they'd be able to do astonishing amounts of computation. The second is that Apple is seriously motivated to make the watts per "compute function" very high, because Apple is committed to powering their data centers from renewable energy sources like solar. So, for Apple, every watt that's spent spinning a fan or pump to cool a processor is a lot of money (more renewable energy required).
So, imagine a huge data center, populated floor to ceiling with very, very dense racks of processor boards populated with cool-running A7 processors. I've been told that some of these data centers aren't even accessible by humans any more - when they (rarely) need to be serviced, they have to be disassembled to provide enough room for a human to get to it.
I can't really imagine the applications that are possible with a huge data processing capability like that. The possibilities not only boggle my imagination... let alone what I know. But Apple has an incredible number of smart people dedicated to making my experience as an Apple customer as good as possible, and I'm guessing they have some ideas on what to do with all that compute capability.
Including Search. I'll certainly use Apple Found, if it comes to pass.
The obligatory BWIA tie-in? None, really, except that if Search could get as good as Arthur C. Clarke imagines the "Minisec" to be, all the data would be kept in the cloud, not on the device, because you'd want it all to be easily searchable. In that future, we're going to need a lot of Broadband Wireless Internet Access.
By Steve Stroh
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