Is Quaero French For Boondoggle?

from the c'est-la-vie dept

Some European nations have been talking for a while about how they need to engender their own technological innovations, like Quaero, which has been billed to be the European-made, Euro-centric version of Google. John Battelle talked to the CEO of one of the companies partnering for Quaero, and it turns out it's not a search engine and it won't have a site, but rather it's a "long term effort to spur various European competitors toward creating better search related technologies". As Battelle notes, it sounds like Quaero may be little more than an effort to divert governmental funds into these companies' R&D using the "Google threatens our culture" line. So while the French may decry the influence of American culture on the Internet, the $2.5 billion their government is throwing at Quaero and other "the European version of x" projects indicate they've embraced that long-running American political tradition, the boondoggle.


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  •  
    identicon
    Rand, Apr 27th, 2006 @ 6:41pm

    More Anti-American subsidies...

    Perhaps its time the U.S. start getting tough with the Europeans who always decry subsidies and anti-competitive tactics unless it helps their industries like wireless, where under the guise of open standards Euro agencies like ETSI set standards for Europe and then try to impose them on the rest of the world, giving their own firms a competitive advantage and at the same time pre-empting real free and open competition in the market. Maybe their way does allow for quicker development of new tech with less compatibility and balkanization problems but nevertheless for something to be truly 'open' one must solicit input from others, not just hijack the process and declare their standard 'Le Global' standard and denigrating everyone else's efforts. This is especially true when you hear them complain about U.S. unilateralism, mercantilism, and cultural imperialism. It's good to see that hypocrisy is alive and well on the continent where hypocrisy got its start.

     

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    nonuser, Apr 27th, 2006 @ 8:33pm

    French for

    the ballyhooed Japanese AI/advanced computing project in the '80s which didn't produce much of anything.

     

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    nonuser, Apr 27th, 2006 @ 8:34pm

    ...Fifth Generation

    oops, double quotes get swallowed unless specially coded. Check.

     

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    jdragon, Apr 27th, 2006 @ 9:45pm

    zee french should stick to fine cousine

    why even bother? crappy french crap.

     

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    Bish, Apr 27th, 2006 @ 10:58pm

    Freedom Fries

    Wow. A lot of people bashing 'the hypocrites' of France. I guess it'd be hypocrisy to hate the country which secured the freedom of your own? Read a history book. Crappy French crap? Difficult to respond to that without using word that rhyme with Bingoism.

    The desire to develop an alternative to Google, MS or GPS, if I may bring up two others, to develop or secure some other supplier of often-used products, is both permitted and encouraged. Encouraged? Yeah, by the ISO9000 series, and it's got as much to do with security and choice as it has to do with isolationism.

    Freedom to choose, and the pursuit of happiness. I really hope someone supports those ideals. Crappy French Crap indeed.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Apr 27th, 2006 @ 11:48pm

      Re: Freedom Fries

      One small thing offsets that history, More recent history. WWII The phrase Cheese Eating Surrender Monkeys comes to mind. read some more receny history. 90% of the country surrendered to germany without even a fight. If it were not for the 10% or so that formed the french resistance I'd have no respect for them whatsoever.

       

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    Viis, Apr 28th, 2006 @ 12:17am

    I am french so please forgive my langage.

    Each time an article is about France, it always turn out to a flame war on different historical issues, and how miserable my country is trying to compete with US.
    I don't understand why there is so much anger about all this historical stuff when even France and Germany have been able to work out that problem and now stand in a perfect friendship.

    For the main subject of this article: just think why would our governments put money in projects about telecommunications, search engines, geolocalisation satellite programs...? Maybe because all of these themes have potential military applications, and seeing that only one country rules all of them, one country that doesn't respect UN decisions, maybe it's worrying.

    FYI, I have been following this site everyday for 2 years and it's my first comment.

     

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    mthorn, Apr 28th, 2006 @ 2:47am

    How is Google a threat? Google works just as well for other languages as it does for English. Google indexes words reguardless of language. I think the real problem is lack of French language sites. Which I come across many in the software development world, which Google translate helps me read. Without Google, I would never find nor be able to read these sites. As with every site, Google only helps connect people to sites, not disconnect.

     

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    Louis, Apr 28th, 2006 @ 3:08am

    Angry people.

    It seems to me that most of the angry people live in the US. I personally don`t understand why government support for research into alternate technologies should be met with such hostile Xenophobia.

     

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    Spartacus, Apr 28th, 2006 @ 3:20am

    Sorry about the French hating but...

    Viis I don't think you understand why most of the USA doesn't really like France right now. Most of it stems back to 9/11.
    As the US mourned the loss of lives to terrorism there were loud French people talking about how "The US deserved what they got" and "It's about time". I'm not saying that EVERY French person thinks that but most certainly the loudest French people think or thought it. It began to sound an aweful lot like what many Islamic countries were saying. What is an American to do when it seems an entire country is happy that 4000 Americans died? Of course Americans will be upset with the French. Again, it may not be every French person that seemed so happy that the towers fell but it sure seemed like it based on the press coming from there. Of course Americans will respond with the fact that had the USA not stepped into WW2 most of the world would be speaking German today. Americans have a deep sense of pride in their country and when someone attacks it, in war or in rhetoric, there is bound to be a backlash.

     

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      Louis, Apr 28th, 2006 @ 7:31am

      Re: Sorry about the French hating but...

      No. No buts..we have to stop hating. If we stopped and looked around we`d realize that all of our problems started because of hate. If you meet agression with more agression you end up with a whole lot of agression. And ff we do not stop the cycle, the hate will just continue to grow until it consumes all of us.

      BTW Spartacus; I`m dutch, but I live in Germany. And honestly, I wouldn`t mind speaking German (which I do in anycase) as opposed to speaking "American". The Germans have learnt from the past, the War has affected every facet of their military strategy in such a way in that they have not been involved in armed conflict since the War. (Hell, Israel rivals Germany`s military might.) Whereas America seems dead set on getting involved in as many wars possible.

       

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    PopeRatzo, Apr 28th, 2006 @ 3:49am

    What about the Revolution?

    Americans are just pissed because they're all fat and people in Europe can still fit into size 32 jeans (except in Europe they'd be size 57.3 or something).

    And Spartacus, not for nothing, but the French helped us during the Revolutionary War pretty dramatically, too.

    If it weren't for the French saving our bacon, we'd all have Queen Elizabeth on our money and bad teeth.

     

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    Viis, Apr 28th, 2006 @ 5:17am

    @Spartacus:

    I think that maybe there's a misunderstanding about french big mouths' reactions just after 9/11.
    It wasn't about being happy after what happened. In fact for the most part of us it sounds too much like what happened in the mid 90's in the suburbs of Paris.

    It was more about seeing a country that thought was invincible, being attacked on his own soil, and how it would react. It was expectation to see if your government would be able to understand that the world can't be ruled from Washington.

    And note that I say your govenrment. Because for the major part of french (ones using their brain), US citizens are not the US govenrment. For us it's two different things. We like US culture, we have no problems with americans, but we have a true problem with your government, and its willingness to rule the world.

    Ps: Please don't be angry I you find a word in my speach that sound awfull, it's not my intention. I may not be aware of the full significance of some words I use.

     

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    Olivier, Apr 28th, 2006 @ 10:31am

    Are these comments about Quaero?

    This enraged discussion about how good or bad the French or the Americans are is just ridiculous. I am French and I love both my country and the US where I live, but I also have criticism about both countries' present and past. Although Europe's subisidized efforts to create alternatives to American hi-tech companies (Airbus vs. Boeing, Ariane vs. NASA...) have been successful so far, Google is so good at whatever they do that I am skeptical about how Quaero could be any better. But let's wait and see, it's always exciting to see new competitors in this market.

     

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    Moondoggie McBoondoggleson, Apr 28th, 2006 @ 3:30pm

    Le Francais

    Red White Blue / Blue White Red. In ways we're mirror images of one another. But certain historical facts, as many of you have mentioned have brought us to where we are to day politically and militarily.

    Technological history is more relevant in this discussion however. The Internet - Capital T, Capital I, was invented/created/spawned by the goons in DARPA for fast, secure (then it was a closed-circuit system) communications containing secret military data between remotely located US offices. And it all happened right here on US soil in the 1960's--it was ArpaNet before it was the Internet. It's a phenomenon that was born and raised here, but has grown outward. At one point, when it had grown large enough to carry the responsibility and name, it became known as the World Wide Web.

    TLDs are the way they are because it's what the US government used back then to differentiate groups of network addresses.

    The Internet is an American thing, deep down. Once the technology became global (long after the US Gov't made it public), it became more than that, but it's roots are American, so it's not hard to imagine why US organizations are leaders of Internet technology. Google's guidance system seems military-like in it's robustness and ability to hit targets. Target Markets that is. Its mode is so different from all other Internet offerings, it makes it nearly invulnerable to unseating as a leader in making the Internet work better for anyone, anywhere in the world, who can get an IP address even if it's on a temporary dial-up session. The one thing that makes it hard to hate Google is that all the services are fricking Free! Something both the French and the Americans can totally understand. If the French want to build something like Google, they should have a go at it. If Google finds a threat in it, they'll likely move to compete. And competition is good for all. Since Google can't compete on price, they'll have to compete on things like usability and features. But to harbor negative feelings for Google because it's American and imposing an influence on French culture is just petty nationalism.

    A French friend of mine told me of an initiative in France to reduce the use of the term e-mail in favor of a French term, message electronique, because the French were worried about American words diluting Le Francais (sorry, no cedille). They already use the words weekend and blue-jeans and others and they worried that this was a bad trend. I don't think there's any need to worry. Americans have for centuries imported French words into the lexicon: restaurant, coup-d'etat, rendezvous, carte blanche, rouge (the reddish cheek makeup), need I go on? Hell, even "the French tickler" is an homage to the French. French toast, French bread, French fries, French kisses. Hardly any other language is as well-represented in the US as French.

    France is about as intwined in the US as any country would want to be. Why should they fear American terms in their language.

    Shit, there was something else I was going to mention, something that gives me a sense of je ne sais quoi. Alas I have forgotten.

     

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    Rand, Apr 28th, 2006 @ 3:53pm

    Back to the original point...and then my own non-s

    Unfortunately this comment box has turned into a nonsequitar. What's at issue is not whether Americans are imperialistic and evil jerks---we may be--nor whether the French are egocentric sour-grapes hypocrites with their own imperial ambitions. The real issue is whether policy emanating out of Brussels helps move the technology landscape forward in an open and fair way or whether it is just another excuse to try secure market and mind share for companies that are unable to innovate on their own and to build put jingoistic protectionist policies in force. For all of America's faults, and they are legion, one thing that can be said, the principle of free and fair competition usually is upheld with the best ideas, products, and services winning in the market. In the EU this process often seems pre-empted by disingenuous and intellectually dishonest claims that EU authorities should impose 'open standards' or 'international standards', then trumpeting how those standards were developed in Europe, and not asking for the input of others from the rest of the world. Apparently international only refers to Europe. The rest of us are not culturally or intellectually sophisticated enough to make meaningful contributions, making only a Brussels-determined monopoly feasible.

    Don't agree, how come Europe only supports GSM and WCDMA wireless standards, and does not allow the Qualcomm version of CDMA to also be deployed (RF issues notwithstanding e.g. CDMA not available in 900/1800 mHz) and offer consumers a competitive choice? The rationale is ubiquity and economies of scale to encourage better coverage and price competition, but in the U.S., Canada, Latin America, Japan, China, South Korea, and Australia both systems coexist and have to compete by offering acceptable coverage and price levels and additionally offer consumers a choice. And why do so many politicians rally for building national champions of industry but blanche at the prospect of foreign entities purchasing their big firms? Apparently it's okay for Alcatel to buy Lucent, or for T-mobile to own a U.S. carrier but the reverse would be considered threatening. For those who pull out the Microsoft argument, the big problem with that argument is that it was never mandated by a central government authority and developed a de-facto anti-competitive monopoly because the other players in the market were too dumb to respond at the time having lacked the vision to see how the market would develop. That's a far cry from European tactic that try dictate market outcomes from the get-go.

    Bottom line: Europe loves to play by the rules of the games so long as those rules favors their interests but when that's no longer the case they complain, use demonization tactics and shrill rhetoric to ascribe 'evil' motives to the U.S., then pick up their ball and go home.

    Now for a non-sequitar of my own, France did not help the U.S. druing the American Revolution out of heartfelt moral obligation, they did so because they were involved in a decades long battle with the English in global struggle for international supremacy. The American Revolution was just another geographic front in that war. At the time, republican ideals were nowhere to be found in France because the Ancien Regime still had a further 13 years after the American Declaration of Independece before the French Revolution started. Furthermore, the remnants of flawed imperial policies at the heart of the Anglo-French rivalry are the seeds of today's geo-political problems. Blast the U.S. and its allies all you want, we would not have these problems were it not for European hubris. It is Europe's responsibility to help solve the problems that they had a major hand in creating, not just blame the U.S. for solutions it does not agree with.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Rand, Apr 28th, 2006 @ 3:53pm

    Back to the original point...and then my own non-s

    Unfortunately this comment box has turned into a nonsequitar. What's at issue is not whether Americans are imperialistic and evil jerks---we may be--nor whether the French are egocentric sour-grapes hypocrites with their own imperial ambitions. The real issue is whether policy emanating out of Brussels helps move the technology landscape forward in an open and fair way or whether it is just another excuse to try secure market and mind share for companies that are unable to innovate on their own and to build put jingoistic protectionist policies in force. For all of America's faults, and they are legion, one thing that can be said, the principle of free and fair competition usually is upheld with the best ideas, products, and services winning in the market. In the EU this process often seems pre-empted by disingenuous and intellectually dishonest claims that EU authorities should impose 'open standards' or 'international standards', then trumpeting how those standards were developed in Europe, and not asking for the input of others from the rest of the world. Apparently international only refers to Europe. The rest of us are not culturally or intellectually sophisticated enough to make meaningful contributions, making only a Brussels-determined monopoly feasible.

    Don't agree, how come Europe only supports GSM and WCDMA wireless standards, and does not allow the Qualcomm version of CDMA to also be deployed (RF issues notwithstanding e.g. CDMA not available in 900/1800 mHz) and offer consumers a competitive choice? The rationale is ubiquity and economies of scale to encourage better coverage and price competition, but in the U.S., Canada, Latin America, Japan, China, South Korea, and Australia both systems coexist and have to compete by offering acceptable coverage and price levels and additionally offer consumers a choice. And why do so many politicians rally for building national champions of industry but blanche at the prospect of foreign entities purchasing their big firms? Apparently it's okay for Alcatel to buy Lucent, or for T-mobile to own a U.S. carrier but the reverse would be considered threatening. For those who pull out the Microsoft argument, the big problem with that argument is that it was never mandated by a central government authority and developed a de-facto anti-competitive monopoly because the other players in the market were too dumb to respond at the time having lacked the vision to see how the market would develop. That's a far cry from European tactic that try dictate market outcomes from the get-go.

    Bottom line: Europe loves to play by the rules of the games so long as those rules favors their interests but when that's no longer the case they complain, use demonization tactics and shrill rhetoric to ascribe 'evil' motives to the U.S., then pick up their ball and go home.

    Now for a non-sequitar of my own, France did not help the U.S. druing the American Revolution out of heartfelt moral obligation, they did so because they were involved in a decades long battle with the English in global struggle for international supremacy. The American Revolution was just another geographic front in that war. At the time, republican ideals were nowhere to be found in France because the Ancien Regime still had a further 13 years after the American Declaration of Independece before the French Revolution started. Furthermore, the remnants of flawed imperial policies at the heart of the Anglo-French rivalry are the seeds of today's geo-political problems. Blast the U.S. and its allies all you want, we would not have these problems were it not for European hubris. It is Europe's responsibility to help solve the problems that they had a major hand in creating, not just blame the U.S. for solutions it does not agree with.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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    nonuser, Apr 28th, 2006 @ 4:54pm

    I wasn't trying to be disrespectful

    but this kind of top-down project launched with simultaneous fanfare and secrecy, truckloads of government money, sky-high ambitions but no clear rationale is just the kind of thing that has failed in the past. It has nothing to do with nationality. The Fifth Generation project happened exactly that way. The Pink/Taligent/Kaleida boondoggle involving Apple and IBM in the early 1990's was arguably an American example of the same, although it occurred in the private sector.

    The governments would be better off trying to figure out ways to foster technology startups and mid-size companies, backing them up with tax breaks, infrastructure improvements, etc. Let businessmen and entrepreneurs run these things, with the government in a supporting role.

     

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