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Sunday, 16 July 2006 02:49

Microsoft running scared of Google's enterprise search

Microsoft's COO seems to be paranoid about Google stealing the 'enterprise search' market from Microsoft, and so he should be because if Google has its way search technology, and Google search technology in particular will become the primary interface to everything in the corporate IT system.
At the Microsoft Developers Conference this week COO Kevin Turner, who joined Microsoft from Wal-Mart 11 months ago, has been widely reported saying: "Enterprise search is our business, it's our house and Google is not going to take that business."

CEO Steve Ballmer said something similar earlier in the week, but without invoking the spectre of Google. "Search from the desktop to the enterprise to the Internet is a business of great importance and a market of great importance to us."

His elaboration of this idea, branded "outlandish" in one report, was that "Business intelligence, the portal, workflow, content management, collaboration market. Everybody likes to call it something different, but that's really now one category, one market that we're entering in full force this year."

What does that mean? I suggest this: "Search as an application is becoming more and more in demand from within the enterprise...Our research has shown that users already use Google all day long and they want to continue to use it in other ways. We are going to extend it into parts of the enterprise it currently does not go."

That was Chris Weitz, managing director for BearingPoint, reported earlier this year in an article on ZDNet anticipating a partnership between Google and BearingPoint that "aims to make searching across corporate and internal desktops and databases as easy as using Google's Web search page."

Google launched in Australia last month  its hardware units that enable its search technology to be applied to corporate data systems. The high end unit, the OneBox, is capable not only of retrieving data from corporate intranets but of delving into a wide range of corporate data systems - ERP, CRM etc to pull out individual records. According to Google's product literature, it "provides a fast front end into up-to-the-minute information across enterprise application and services including Cisco VoIP systems, Cognos, Employease, Oracle Applications, Salesforce.com and many more."

BearingPoint Australia will offer systems integration services to organisations wanting to implement the OneBox, and Rob Hillard, managing director (partner) data knowledge and management with BearingPoint, neatly summed up the philosophy behind it.

"If I want to find out what the weather is like in Melbourne, I could type in the URL for the Bureau of Meteorology, but it's much easier to go to Google and type 'Weather Melbourne today' because I know that will come up in the top two or three items. So if I'm in a bank working on loans I can just type 'loans' and the kind of loan I'm working on and the information an the applications I need will come up. If I want to work on a particular account I can just type the person's name and their account details will come up."

In other words, just as Google online search has, for many users, largely replaced directly accessing information and applications on the web with approximate natural language queries, so could the OneBox do the same for an enterprise's internal information.

As BearingPoint's Weitz said. "Our research has shown that users already use Google all day long and they want to continue to use it in other ways."

That, I suggest, is why Turner is so paranoid: Google's dominance of Internet searching aided by the technology in its search appliances will give it huge leverage to shift the paradigm for accessing corporate information from one based on locations, directories, applications to one based simply on natural language searching.

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