Gates: Rivals Can't Match Search Integration With Microsoft Platform, Services

At his 10th annual CEO Summit Wednesday, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates hinted the software giant will crush Google in the same way that it crushed Netscape -- by integrating enterprise search deeply into Windows Vista, Office 2007, Outlook 2007 and SharePoint 2007 and with the rest of the Windows platform and also with emerging web services from Microsoft.

Microsoft's multifaceted search platform, which includes Vista Search, Sharepoint Enterprise Search, Windows Live Search and an enhanced web search, cannot be matched by rivals because it harnesses other Windows services such as workflow and BI. This will enable users not only to search and find corporate data but analyze it, act on it in a logical way and share it with colleagues, Gates said.

For example, end users can analyze the results of SharePoint Search or Outlook 2007 search, analyze it with Microsoft's business intelligence tools and act on it through Office-based workflow-enabled business processes or enterprise instant messaging.

"This is the last mile of productivity," Gates said, noting that the ability to search across the corporate desktop, network, intranet, and Internet services from a common user interface will help reduce or eliminate information overload affecting knowledge workers.

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Microsoft "is digging the ditch" with its next wave of client and server platform products and web services due in 2007, Gates said. Windows Live Search will go into testing in the second half of 2006.

"The key differentiating thing is how the information is presented," Gates said during his keynote, noting that it's not enough to do business intelligence well, or search well, or portal well, but to allow these services to "feed off each other" and provide information in context to end users.

NEXT: Search across multiple PCs During Gates' keynote, one Microsoft product manager demonstrated new search in Outlook 2007, the ability to search across multiple PCs, find documents and share with other people using Office Communicator enterprise instant messaging client.

He also demonstrated how users can search and find relevant information and use the check-in and check-out capabilities of SharePoint 2007 to store the document or subsume it into a workflow process that is routed to other end users.

Microsoft also unveiled Wednesday plans for Office SharePoint Server for Search 2007 for midsized businesses as well as departments within corporations. The product will be a subset of the full SharePoint Server 2007.

Microsoft also unveiled the Office SharePoint Server Business Data Catalog that allows end users to search across structured data from SAP or Siebel and other line-of-business applications and a Knowledge Network for Office Sharepoint Server 2007 that finds expertise and people of interest by automatically searching profiles on the network.

On-premise software is only part of the Microsoft EIM platform.

Gates told CEOs that Microsoft is investing $6 billion in fiscal 2007 on search, web services and hosted services.

Gates predicted that most companies will use a mix of on-premise software and off-premise web services such as Microsoft's Windows Live Search or Virtual Earth and hosted services from third party ISVs and solution providers.

He said customers and partners will be able to harness Microsoft's web services such as Virtual Earth and Windows Live Search to complement the on-premise infrastructure.

In the future, for example, Microsoft will offer a user-centric service that keeps track of user profiles and preferences and makes it available to instantly provision laptops, tablet PCs, mobile phones for workers both on and off premise.

"It will take several years for that, but you need commonality to make it easy to move between devices," Gates said.

"Software is not always running inside a company but also outside a company and you connect up to it over the Internet," Gates said. "This is software as a service [SaaS]. It's going to explode. In the past 100 percent of software was running on customer premises and in the future it will be more of a mix. But it won't be an overnight change."

Somewhat dismissive of his rival's web-based search engine, Gates also said Microsoft is developing a service that allows end users to find intelligent answers to their questions and have actions exposed to colleagues and business partners more transparently, he said.

In an interview with CRN last year, Gates said that enterprise and corporate search requires different, more complex algorithms because end users are searching structured and unstructured corporate data and not just URLs or links.