November 6, 2007 6:00 AM PST

Microsoft giving away business search tools

Microsoft thinks it has found the right price for its enterprise search tool: free.

Starting next year, the company plans to give away a new product, dubbed Microsoft Search Server 2008 Express, which enables workers to see a collection of search results spanning databases, internal computer systems, and the Internet. In addition to the free product, Microsoft plans a paid version that is essentially the same, but is licensed to run on more than one physical server. Microsoft said it will announce pricing for that product closer to its launch next year.

But by announcing the product now, Microsoft hopes to garner some attention, and eventually bring out a product that can boost its position in both enterprise and Web search.

"We really believe enterprise search is at a tipping point," said Jared Spataro, group product manager for enterprise search. "We really think people will look back on this time as the time when search went from just being a consumer tool to one that businesses can harness."

Microsoft plans to put out a "release candidate" test version of the Express product Tuesday, with plans to release the final server software--and its paid counterpart--early next year. Both titles combine the search of internal files with the ability to search external databases and Web sites, such as Google News, Wikipedia, and BusinessWeek.

By default, both products will also include search results from Microsoft's Live.com search engine, and those who click for "more results" will be taken to Live.com from within their browser. Microsoft did say that users will be able to remove the link to Live.com's results, as well as include results from other search providers.

The new products are derived from Microsoft SharePoint Server, which contains additional features for corporate portals, such as a people-finding tool that can act like a social-networking program for corporations.

IBM already offers a free enterprise search tool in collaboration with Yahoo. Google is also investing in enterprise search, as are niche firms such as Autonomy, Fast Search & Transfer, and Endeca.

Spataro said the new products are particularly aimed at the start-ups, whose products, he said, are often too expensive to allow the bulk of users to benefit.

"We really feel the technology is good enough," Spataro said. "The problem has been that it has been all bottled up."

For some time now, Microsoft has vowed to battle Google in the enterprise search area. Last month, Google introduced an update to its enterprise search appliance that allows "social" search.

Fast Search & Transfer said in a statement that it "applauds" Microsoft's move.

"Today's announcement further validates what we at Fast have known for some time--search has moved beyond the search box to become a critical part of enterprise infrastructure," said Zia Zaman, the company's senior vice president and global strategy chief. "This naturally pits Google, with its success within Web search and entry-level enterprise search, against Microsoft, which is keen to retain control of the small- to medium-sized marketplace. Microsoft has been developing an impressive portfolio of search and collaboration tools that are going to help businesses significantly improve their productivity and make better use of their information assets."

See more CNET content tagged:
enterprise search, Fast Search & Transfer, Microsoft SharePoint, Microsoft Windows Live, collaboration

10 comments

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LOL! Had to happen sometime...
Seriously - have you used Sharepoint? It's basically a glorified Wiki + search engine, and fairly worthless at doing both.

Between generated URL's that stretch out for miles, the unearthly slowness of accessing and actually using the thing, and the gawdawful scripting that's required to get it to be even halfway usable?

Blecch. I was able to replace it here @ work with TWiki (<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://twiki.org" target="_newWindow">http://twiki.org</a>) and but few other bits and bobs. As a plus, I could plug other useful enterprise-grade apps into it, and I didn't need to get a big old honking Windows-based server to run it on.

/P
Posted by Penguinisto (5042 comments )
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TWiki
Wow! If you were able to replace Sharepoint with TWiki, either your Sharepoint implementation was handled by a total incompetent or your users have very low expectations...
Posted by MikeeeC (43 comments )
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SharePoint
Have YOU used SharePoint? I'm not sure what product you were using, but the SharePoint that I've been gladly administering for the last 8 months has been barely short of rock solid (and the only issues that I've had were "administrator inflicted"). "glorified Wiki"? Did you happen to look at any documentation on the product before you haphazardly dove into it. The 'wiki' function is a new addition to MOSS 07. The search engine is very robust and easy to configure, on top of being much cheaper than most other "Enterprise Search" solutions (Google Enterprise search - for example - would have cost us in upwards of $20,000 per year). As far as URLs... if you don't know how to properly configure it, then YES they will stretch on for miles. If you set everything up PROPERLY, it is very manageable. "unearthly slowness or accessing and using"? Man, you must REALLY not have your prodcut set up properly. I've got many users access many different parts of SharePoint (searching, wikis, discussion boards, shared documents areas, Knowledgebases, etc) with virtually 0 lag time. "gawdawful scripting"? I've found SQL and aspx to very intuitive and easy to use scripting interfaces. What interface are YOU using that is so terrible? "big old honking Windows-based server"? Do people actually do the things that they SAY they do when they post these things!?! I've had MOSS running on a VMServer!!! Yes, it runs WinServ03, but it is a VIRTUAL SERVER running along side 4 other VM servers on ONE BOX! Where is the resource hogging?

Remember "'Tis better to be THOUGHT OF as an idiot then to open one's mouth and remove all doubt"
Posted by kmomrik (44 comments )
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Advanced warning?
AS usual with Microsoft, the PR machine is in full swing. The company says: "Microsoft plans to put out a "release candidate" test version of the Express product Tuesday, with plans to release the final server software--and its paid counterpart--early next year.", and the articles are titled "Micrsoft giving away".
Sorry guys!
Microsoft cannot give away something that is not out yet!

Are they detecting a threat in Leopard server or Linux's Search facility? Who knows? The important thing is the timing of the announcement.
Posted by jmdunys (49 comments )
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NOW THAT'S CLASS - BRAVO MICROSOFT!
I'll sum up my feelings about this news with the title of a tune, one of my Top Ten Tunes of ALL TIME, which is:

"It ain't what you do, it's the way that you do it."

This is a CLASS ACT, from the CLASSIEST of worldwide software developers and a "friend" to all of us for the past 20 years. I'm an end user, just me, since the mid 1980's and the name Microsoft has become a household tradition in my home, just like Bread, Water, Air, Electricity, and Telephone - Microsoft is a STAPLE in my home, a part of my life. No, I don't get any perks by writing this, and surely, my 3 or 4 purchases of the Windows Operating System in the past 20 years hasn't made anyone in Redmond Washington richer, or for that matter, me, any POORER. If asked, under Oath, how much enjoyment I've had in the past 20 years from the Microsoft Windows Operating Systems, I'd have to say "Your Honor, the enjoyment I've had from Microsoft in the past 20 years is Priceless." So, now, Microsoft is "giving it away" - that's CLASS - that's REALLY CLASS. This can only help the technology sector, the business sector, which ultimately should help the consumer, worldwide. That's the American Way - BRAVO MICROSOFT - KUDOS MICROSOFT.

Thank you for this opportunity to TalkBack and have a wonderful week.
Posted by FO-FI_FO_454 (25 comments )
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Wow
Your life must suck if you spent it with one of the most incompetent software houses on the planet.
Posted by MSSlayer (1074 comments )
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