Microsoft Launches A Search-Based Face-off

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Recently, at the 10th annual CEO Summit, 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, other Windows servers 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.

“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.

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.

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Gates told CEOs that Microsoft is investing $6 billion in fiscal 2007 on search, Web services and hosted services. He also 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. 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 and mobile phones for workers both on- and off-premise.

“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.

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.

Google recently signed a deal with Dell in which the OEM would preload Google search on PCs. And while some expect that could help Google make inroads in the corporate market, others believe Microsoft will win in this market because companies prefer integration with the operating system and want a consistent search service across the desktop, servers, networks and the Internet, said Bob Tedesco, CTO of Resolute, a Microsoft partner in Bellevue, Wash.

“Google has the Web search down but they have a long way to go on the desktop,” Tedesco said, noting that Microsoft search will allow customers to search desktop files, SQL Server databases and the Internet from one interface. “Enterprise customers always look for integration because it’s simpler and requires less administration. They don’t want to put another product on top of the platform.”