IBM Corp. and Yahoo Inc. are teaming up to offer a free data-search tool for
businesses, a quirky move challenging Google Inc. and other corporate-search
specialists in a blossoming market.
IBM already sells a business-focused search product, OmniFind, that lets
organizations comb through internal documents. This free new edition of OmniFind
will be limited in the number of documents it can query, but it will combine the
results with Web searches powered by Yahoo.
IBM hopes the service, being announced Wednesday, bolsters its overall
efforts to improve its dealings with small companies.
More broadly, though, Yahoo and IBM expect their partnership to shake up the
field of "enterprise search," in which leading providers such as Google,
Autonomy Corp. and Norway-based FAST are seeing forays from business software
giants such as Microsoft Corp., Oracle Corp. and SAP AG.
Google has been dominant at the lower end of the market selling "search
appliances" that begin at $2,000 and range up to $30,000. The top-of-the-line
version can comb through 500,000 documents. Not coincidentally, that is the same
limit that IBM and Yahoo have set for their free software - although
Google's product includes hardware that operates the search service.
"They're going to create a real headache for Google at that tier," said
Forrester Research analyst Matthew Brown.
Of course, whatever pain Google feels ought to be put in context - it
gets 99 percent of its revenue from advertising, not from selling search
While Yahoo and IBM may eventually expand their partnership, Yahoo will focus
on the Web-search aspect of the equation and not venture into enterprise search,
said Eckart Walther, Yahoo's vice president of product management for search.
That would be in keeping with Yahoo's recent pledge to stay focused on its
consumer audience and advertising network - a step aimed at resolving
internal strife over a muddled strategy.
Indeed, Forrester's Brown said it appears that Yahoo is most interested in
using the IBM deal to strengthen its brand in corporate environments and get
people using Yahoo Web search at work more often.