No, I've Got It


John Gruber jokingly suggests that a better moneymaker for Microsoft’s money-losing Bing search engine would be to charge to listen in to the negotiation of Bing’s sale between Steve Jobs and Steve Ballmer. While entertaining, it probably wouldn’t make billions.

OK, so this idea that I have won’t make billions either, but it might put a bit of a dent into the red ink that Bing is making.

There’s a distinct need in Corporate America for a decent intranet search engine. My company’s corporate website has a search function, but it’s of little use as it won’t search our common network drives, where search is desperately needed. It also seems to return random results based on random words in a random result order. And it knows nothing about the popularity or quality of the retrieved results since it doesn’t keep track of who eventually used what results.

Google recognizes this problem and makes the Google Search Appliance to solve it. The GSA is a box that sits on your corporate network and indexes all of your stuff for easy, Google-quality searches. But the biggest problem is that it is a separate box with a separate OS and separate security concerns from a separate company and so forth. Non-Microsoft boxes and operating systems seem to scare IT people. Chances of adoption? Zero.

But… what if MS rolled Bing into their Windows Server product? All of the advantages that Google touts for their search appliance could be included as a native part of Windows Server. Bing, a respectable search engine in its own right, would be able to search anything served up by Windows Server, whether it’s web content, E-mail content, or network drive content, and would be able to make use of the same security models already part of the Server product.

Apple already does this with Mac OS X Server and Spotlight, but without results tracking and whatnot which differentiate simple search from a true search engine. Even still, it works remarkably well, so we use it in my wife’s office where she scans all of her paper documents, lets OCR create indexable text, and lets Spotlight return relevant documents, E-mails, etc., as she searches for them. If I had this at work (Ah! Utopia!), I would have more hair and more time, especially since I have management which insists on folders buried in folders buried in folders of folders. Give me a web portal that searches all of this stuff and I’d be one happy customer.

And think of the money! Microsoft could not only charge by the seat for Bing, as is the nature of Windows Server licensing, but they could also could charge by the document just as Google does.

But would Corporate America bite? Yes, I think it would, and it just might make a substantial dent in those billions after all…

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