Roadmap FAST Search for Sharepoint and Internet Business

In view of the fact that it has been a year since Microsoft acquired FAST search, there has been a lot of hush-hush about the Enterprise search roadmap. However, at the yearly FAST forward conference, Microsoft’s press release Microsoft Unveils New Enterprise Search Road Map reached the public.

There are no big surprises, but a lot of interesting details to come. Briefly speaking Microsoft is focusing on two areas: search to enhance business productivity and search to earn money online.

Sharepoint and FAST ESP

Here at Findwise we have been working with customers integrating SharePoint and FAST ESP for some time, and ESP certainly adds a lot of value by extending SharePoint’s main strengths: content management and collaboration. Office 14, which will probably see the light early next year, will hopefully add more flexibility to their infrastructure solutions out of the box.

More information about the licensing models are yet to come and even though FAST search will continue to develop ESP as a standalone (to run on both Unix and Linux), the roadmap ties existing and potential Microsoft customers closer by presenting search as an integrated part of their business productivity offering.

As for FAST Search Internet Business Microsoft’s target group are companies looking for earning money online. During FAST forward 2007 there was a lot of talk about the future search driven portals and during the 2008 event about the ability to understanding user intent.

Today online consumers have higher expectations when it comes to search and the ability to show related information (such as Amazon’s “people that bought this product also bought”..) as well as showing contextual advertising (related to search terms, geographical location etc) and recommendations will create loyal customers. FAST search has quite a few customers using search for strategic online business so one should keep an eye on the release of the new beta version during 2009.

If you read Swedish, Helge Legernes, one of the founders of Findwise is giving his comment in Computer Sweden.

Microsoft is Opening its Wallet for Search

Three weeks after making a $1.2 billion bid for FAST search & Transfer Microsoft announces that they make a $44.6 billion offer to buy Yahoo. So far it‘s only an offer which Yahoo’s board and stockholders are considering but, to conclude, Microsoft is serious about going into strategic search markets.

Web search engines, such as Google and Yahoo, are making really good money from online advertising such as contextual ads when searching, banners etc. This market is, according to analyst firms such as Yankee group, predicted to double over the next four years giving somewhere between $40- $50.3 billion in revenue.
Google is still a leader within this field, but it seems as if the competition is getting tougher.

Apart from web search there has also been a lot of talk about mobile search, a new emerging market where Yahoo last year made an acquisition of TellMe, a hosted speech applications company. Since this purchase Yahoo has done development for using its online advertising platform Panama for local mobile search and services as well.

If the offer is accepted Microsoft will have a strong portfolio, reaching from critical enterprise search with FAST technology and consumer focused search with Yahoo.
(An interesting perspective is the historical background where FAST developed AlltheWeb, one of the most popular and sophisticated internet search engines in the beginning of 21:st century, which in 2003 was sold to Overture and later bought by Yahoo.)

If the future holds a merger of advanced search technologies remains to be seen, but we will probably see some really interesting development within this field the forthcoming year.
What is your opinion? Can this affect Google’s position as a leader within web search? And more importantly, how do you think Microsoft’s purchases will affect the market for search in general?