May 23, 2006

Microsoft Updates the Search Engine for Enterprise

By Susan Dietz

Microsoft recently announced their effort to create unified enterprise information management solutions that integrate new capabilities into the software programs people already use. The new software will purportedly help people create, find, use and share information across the organization.  Enhancements in Windows Live Search and Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 are aimed at increasing connectivity within an enterprise.   The reported goals of the enhancements are to give people the software tools to report about their knowledge and projects, improve productivity by quickly, seamlessly and securely connecting people to relevant information, enable people to organize and manage information so they can effectively analyze and apply the data to do something new, and allowing people to clearly communicate and quickly share information with other people.  Windows Live Search offers a single user interface (UI) to help people find and use all the information they wish from across the entire enterprise and beyond. It essentially binds together previously separate search solutions including Windows Desktop Search, Intranet search provided by Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007, and Internet search via Windows Live Search, among others. Information available to any of these systems can be exposed in one place.  Rich filtering and customizable control will allow people to personalize their Windows Live Search. Using natural search terms, Windows Live Search can return results in whatever way makes most sense to each information worker – inline, grouped by category, etc. Previews and visualizations of the data can then help people more quickly determine what action to take.  Office SharePoint Server 2007 adds a new dedicated Search Center tab for searching for people within the organization based on “social distance.” 

So who actually wants information across an enterprise in the first place?  Auditors, for one.  They need to audit trail all kinds of things, especially in terms of SOX and the like.  Lawyers are another group - looking for electronic evidence just got a little easier. Discovery searches across all the places where data may reside is not necessarily a good thing or a bad thing, but it is, unfortunately, a necessary thing.  But what about the possibility of information overload? Suppose someone in a large company wants to know about the sales of, say, anti-virus software, so does a search.  It’s absolutely mind-boggling how many emails that would conjure up.
A bigger question is does this new development now make Microsoft a friend or an enemy of established search engines Google and Yahoo?  Does this technology perhaps signal Microsoft's aggressive movement into the space these two occupy?  Perhaps.  However, given the dominance of Google and Yahoo, there may well not be any significant loss of market share.    

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