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February 01, 2008

Enterprise Search and the Microsoft acquisition of Yahoo, what it might mean

Aside from needing to bring the Yahoo yodeler out of retirement to re-record that famous "Ya-hoo-ooo!" for Bill and Co., we're wondering what other changes this merger might bring.  (I guess the yodel would now be "Micro-soahhwww-oft!")

You'll recall Microsoft just swallowed up FAST Search & Transfer a couple weeks ago, a big player in the Enterprise Search market, and now they've grabbed a big public portal search heavyweight.

On the public side, we're assuming that they won't just re-brand Yahoo as MSN Search.  They paid a lot for the Yahoo! brand, presumably they value it.  In fact, maybe some of the Microsoft portal properties could migrate to the Yahoo brand.

And MS's deep pockets and desktops, combined with Yahoo!'s brand, make life a bit more interesting for Google.

And could FAST's advanced ESP technology be used to improve Yahoo's search results?

But our focus here is Enterprise Search.

One early casualty of the MS-Yahoo! merger might be a chill in the search partnership between Yahoo and IBM.  You'll recall IBM and Yahoo released a free search engine last year, which was actually pretty good.  But IBM's OmniFind products are a direct competitor to FAST's ESP product line, so we assume Microsoft will lean towards ESP in the future.  Of course there may be some timetables built into the Yahoo/IBM contract that will have to be allowed to run out.

We would also expect more linkage between FAST's ESP product and the Yahoo public search.  For example, making it a simple option to include a "search the web" radio button in ESP search forms.  This wouldn't be mandatory, just an option, but some companies might like to make it easy for their employees to simultaneously search their private Intranet and the public web at the same time.

For enterprise folks, the MS/FAST acquisition is still the bigger story.

The bigger picture is that now Microsoft and Google are competing head-to-head in quite a few sectors.  They both have public and enterprise search.  Both are providing software infrastructure, desktop and browser tools, document authoring tools, and each is sponsoring a mobile platform for smart phones.  And again,  both have deep pockets.

IBM and Oracle, the other two behemoths, will need to respond if they want to play in these markets.  We still believe that Autonomy is a logical acquisition for Oracle, from a technology and company culture standpoint, and Mike Lynch & co. will find it tougher and tougher to resist.  IBM and Endeca would also seem to be a good pairing, with their mutual emphasis on powering eCommerce sites, and their mutual obsession with meta data (which we totally agree with), and we hear rumors that there may be some financial motivation on Endeca's part, though we haven't been able to confirm that.

We do live in interesting times.

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