Those looking for Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) next-generation search functionality-the mobile, social and location-based "contextual discovery" at Google's Inside Search event June 14-may have been disappointed.
What attendees, search experts and industry watchers got was more of the same, even though some of that same was impressive and perhaps critical to Google's push to stay ahead of rivals such as Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO) and Bing in the search market it already commands.
Among the litany of new search features were Google voice and image search on the desktop, two separate features that let users search the Web by speaking into their computer microphones and by entering links to photos into a search box, respectively.
Perhaps the most important perks were Google Instant Pages and Google Images with Instant, two features that advance the predictive search meme Google started last September with Google Instant predictive search. Images with Instant brings images to the fore as users type queries in the search box. Instant Pages renders Web pages as users type their queries.
IDC analyst Hadley Reynolds said Google leveraged a number of significant prior innovations to change the way users interact with search. Google Voice Search on the desktop leverages Google's 230 billion-word speech recognition vault used to power the same feature on today's smartphones, and integrates the well-trod Google Translate.
Google Image Search on the desktop employs Google Goggles visual search technology. Google Instant Pages and Google Images with Instant are built on the Instant technology before them.
Despite the prior pedigree, none of these features appears to be home run. They all aim to tackle hard search user experience challenges.
"Voice search has been flaky, although Google has the traffic volume to be able to fix many of the most glaring problems," Reynolds said.
"Image search is notoriously, laughably inaccurate, and searchers may find that feature a waste of time. And what is the point of really fast rendering of the wrong pages coming from inaccurate search results? Google has announced some great directions; it's now up to them to prove that searchers will truly benefit from the new features."