IBM partners with Yahoo!

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Content Copyright © 2006 Bloor. All Rights Reserved.

Yesterday, IBM announced a partnership with Yahoo! for
enterprise search, specifically for the IBM OmniFind Yahoo!

Now, that would be a story in its own right. The sort of ease of
use and ease of deployment that the product offers might also be a
single story, as these are not capabilities that one typically
associates with IBM. But neither of these is the really big story.
Nor is the fact that you can download the software from Yahoo!’s
web site. No, the really big story is that the software will
support index and search against both the web and file server
content, for up to 500,000 documents for free.

Okay, let’s be a bit more specific: the OmniFind Yahoo! Edition
does enterprise, departmental, site, intranet and conventional
Yahoo! (web, audio, video and so on) searches but it does not do
desktop search. It is, as stated, free for the first 500,000
documents. Chargeable support is available if required. Beyond
that, IBM reckons that you will want to migrate to the OmniFind
Enterprise Edition, though the company is considering the
introduction of incremental charging above 500,000 for the Yahoo!
Edition if there is sufficient demand—my guess is that there
will be.

Features include multi-lingual capability with more than 30
languages supported (including double byte languages) though
administration will be in English only in the first release,
support for over 200 different document types, auto-suggestion
capabilities (for example, “did you mean…?”) based on
synonyms that are both pre-built and which you can customise,
support for filters and language awareness (knowledge of stemming,
for example), and so on and so forth.

More technically, the software is built on top of Apache’s
Lucene engine, which provides the indexing core for OmniFind Yahoo!
Edition. Lucene is an open source project and IBM is committed to
making significant contributions back to the Lucene community.

So, how is this going to impact the market? Well, assuming that
support charges are commensurate with what one might expect,
clearly it is going to kill any vendor that charges any significant
amount of money for enterprise search up to half a million
documents. In effect, it is going to force exactly this sort of
pricing model on the whole market—in a highly competitive
market it will no doubt mean that some suppliers go to the wall or
get acquired cheaply—this will speed up consolidation within
this sector. However, these are longer term effects. In the short
term, most competitors will wait to see how this initiative from
IBM pans out and then decide how to act. That will be too late. By
that time IBM will have acquired sufficient momentum in the market
that it can’t be stopped. It is the more proactive suppliers that
act soon that will prosper.

To summarise: I expect this announcement to have a major impact
on the structure of the market in the mid-term. I also expect IBM
to gain significant market share as a result.