Microsoft is ratcheting up its enterprise search offerings and is set to announce a new client-based application known as Windows Live Search as well as Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 for Search, a new server product.
Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates will deliver the news during his keynote address at the 10th annual CEO Summit at the Redmond, Wash., campus May 17, said Jon Beighle, the general manager of Microsofts online services group, in an interview ahead of that speech.
But this latest Windows Live Search client solution is not to be confused with the existing Windows Live Search product that is currently in beta and which allows Web search.
While Microsoft has decided that, for branding purposes, it is going to give both products exactly the same name, the difference is that this new application is designed to extend the existing Web search to the client so users can search across their PCs for data.
This latest search application will be made available as a free download to users, with the beta available in the second half of 2006 and final availability around the same time that the enterprise versions of Windows Vista and Office 2007 ship.
“Today, Windows Live Search on the Web is a search engine with a rich user interface that allows Web search. The Windows Live Search client application will sit on your desktop and connect to Windows Live Search on the Web and your corporate search on your intranet,” Beighle said.
The products thus work in combination to allow users to search for data and information across their desktops, the Internet and the corporate network, and deliver the results back into a single user interface that can be sorted through quickly and which allows action to be taken on the results, he said.
“With Windows Live Search, users will be able to enter a search term into the search bar and then kick off a search across their PC, the Internet and the entire corporate network and, using SharePoint 2007 to connect, the search can reach down into a line of business data from Siebel and other systems as well as more unstructured data like documents that sit around the corporate network and bring all of that data information back to one place,” Beighle said.
Users can then quickly flip through the search results and see the document or Web site in a preview pane that lets them find the information they need.
This can then be dragged and dropped onto the desktop, sent to someone or opened, he said.
“So you should think of Windows Live Search as a really lightweight, user-oriented interface on your desktop that lets you search multiple data sources,” Beighle said.
With regard to Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 for Search, this new server product is targeted at mid-market customers and those departmental enterprises who just want the core SharePoint search functionality and not all the other portal and collaboration solutions it provides.
“For those who just want to search their intranet, this product will support the most common types of searches: looking at file servers, Web sites, Exchange Server, Lotus Notes and those kinds of things. It can also be extended to other data sources by third parties who can do custom connectors or by the company itself and is upgradeable to the full SharePoint Server 2007,” he said.
It will be priced on a per-server license model; pricing has not been determined yet, but it will ship along with SharePoint 2007 in October, he said.
Focus on Customers
Asked if these new search offerings from Microsoft bring any capabilities that Google does not already offer, Beighle said that Microsoft is not benchmarking itself against what Google is doing but is focusing on its customer problems.
“We are not focusing on search as an isolated topic but, rather, in light of the broader information management needs that customers have and how we can bring SharePoint and Windows Live Search to bear on those problems,” he said.
On the question of whether enterprise customers have indicated a willingness to pay for search technologies, Beighle said customers know that they can get a lot more productivity out of their employees if they can make better decisions by getting the information they need more quickly.
“Customers put a high value on that,” he said.
Gates will also use his keynote speech to announce that Office SharePoint Server 2007, which provides capabilities around portals and collaboration and enterprise content management, business processes, intelligence and forms, will also bring something known as Knowledge Network.
about SharePoint, which could be Microsofts sleeper hit.
This is a capability that lets information workers tap into social networks and search for experts on particular topics.
The way it works is that when a company implements Knowledge Network, it goes through and automatically profiles people based on the e-mail in their Outlook folders and the profile they set up of themselves on the Web.
It then builds an automated profile, which users can look at, adjust and modify, Beighle said.
“It also allows companies to integrate their corporate instant messaging systems or presence information into the results set so users can see which experts are immediately available to contact, and get the information they need right away,” he said.
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