Does Google's Universal Search Foreshadow Enterprise Search?

Ann All

With Google's announcement of a slew of enhancements to its hugely popular search engine, it's hard not to speculate that the company may quickly move some of those enhancements to its enterprise search products as well.


Of course, it's hard not to speculate about most of Google's activities. Some pundits have pretty much made a career of it.


It's only been about a month since representatives from Microsoft and Google took some shots at the competition's approach to enterprise search at a conference. It's hard now not to see that as a healthy dose of foreshadowing.


The Microsoft guy essentially implied that Google was clueless about the needs of the enterprise. His take: Enterprises are interested in search as part of a broader infrastructure rather than a standalone product, which gives Microsoft a clear advantage over Google.


The Google guy talked up Google's ability to handle both structured and unstructured information, a major pain point for most companies, as well as its unified search interface. That's exactly what is showcased in Google's so-called "universal" search, which utilizes a heavy-duty technical infrastructure to integrate results from Google's vertical search engines, including video search, into its flagship engine. See what we mean by foreshadowing?


In the past year, Google has made a number of plays in the enterprise search game. In addition to its Search Appliance, to which it added a bevy of business-friendly features earlier this year, Google has established partnerships with several business intelligence vendors to help users more easily find reports and other BI documents and also to ferret out information contained in diverse sources.


While the addition of video to results is garnering the lion's share of interest -- and is certainly a smart move in light of Google's desire to monetize YouTube the broadly growing interest in Internet video -- businesses are more interested in the less flashier but eminently more useful ability to integrate search results.


Clever Google is also getting some pretty valuable market research simply by inviting users to visit and try out some of its other search ideas. This must be what the Google guy at the conference was alluding to when he said that, "We can try out a product offering to millions of users and fine tune it for the enterprise."

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