Microsoft, Google trade barbs on enterprise search

Microsoft and Google representatives compared each other's enterprise search products at a conference in San Francisco Wednesday.

Officials of Microsoft and Google have traded comparisons of their enterprise search products to their rival's during a technology conference in San Francisco.

To underscore that it was all in fun, lead product manager for Google's search appliance business, Nitin Mangtani, feigned throwing a punch at Jared Spataro, group product manager for Microsoft's enterprise search, as they shared a stage at the Gilbane Conference on enterprise technology issues.

Like Web surfers searching the Internet, enterprises need search engines for their own IT networks for finding important files, digital presentations, databases and other internal information.

Microsoft's Spataro said Google might be the leader in the consumer Internet search market, but that didn't necessarily translate into success in the enterprise market where more sophisticated functionality was needed. He outlined three general markets for enterprise search including entry level commodity search functions where Google was the leader. A middle market offered some additional features enterprises needed and also was scalable as a company grew. The third, high-end market delivered very sophisticated search techniques, such as those designed for e-discovery.

Spataro claimed Microsoft wass better positioned than Google to serve those middle and high-end markets.

"We think we have a much more compelling solution for the enterprise space because we understand the IT professionals who buy it, we understand their needs and how to service these folks," he said.

But Google's expertise in consumer search extended into the enterprise markets, said Mangtani.

"We understand the needs of the high-end markets. There is some perception with a small segment of the market that we don't, but we have all the tools the market needs," Mangtani said.

It wasn't yet clear, however, whether Google could be as successful in enterprise search as it had been in consumer search, said Michael Maziarka, director of InfoTrends, a market research firm, because enterprises needed search that was integrated with their other business process software.

"A document needs to be seen in context. Who created it, when was it created it, what was the role of the person who created the document? For a business, that information is critical," he said.

Microsoft's Windows Live Search combines search of the enterprise network, the Internet and individual desktop computers.

Google offers Google Search Appliance and Google Mini, hardware that contains Google software to facilitate enterprise search. The Google Mini starts at as low as $US2000.

While praising the Google Mini for the simplicity of its design and interface, Maziarka said other enterprise software makers such Microsoft, SAP or Oracle, might be closer to the enterprise buyer than Google.

"The issue is, how in tune are you to business processes? It's not clear how easily Google can do that," he said.

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