Thursday, May 19, 2005

Google's Enterprise Moves Begin to Coalesce into a User-Centric Strategy

In contrast to our earlier post on enterprise search tool providers who are adding features in search of a marketing strategy, Google started early on with a very simple and elegant one: "Organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful." A bit broad, mind you, but then again, they seem to be on track with implementing it in many ways, most recently gaining ground in the enterprise arena. While in the online world Google is still in knockaround mode with numerous tools that may or may not fit this marketing vision, in the enterprise space Google is developing a very simple and coherent strategy. Step one: develop the next-generation Google Search Appliance to be a very competent consumer of enterprise content for far more than just web pages and a few other kludged sources. Step two: actually market the stuff. This year's Enterprise Search Summit witnessed not only a genuine product speech from a local Google bizdev executive but a reasonably objective view from a satisfied Google enterprise client and people in the booth who actually spoke to clients about solutions: a far cry from last year's standoffish and somewhat amateurish efforts. Step three: start bringing it all together. The recently annouced enterprise-ready desktop search from Google (Reuters coverage) now provides a nexus for personal, enterprise and Web content searches that offers a very high level of value and a level of security compatible with most enterprise requirements, to be sure, but it also continues to leverage brilliantly Google's most potent asset: the perceived value of its services in the eyes of Web-savvy users.

More than most any other search engine provider Google has managed to keep the user as the focus of its marketing efforts. While other players are still talking to I.T. mangers in enterprises about six-figure solutions before their product ever sees the light of a user's desktop, Google is out there learning first-hand about what enterprise users need from content, even as they learn how to build into their "black box" Google Search Appliance all the functionality that I.T. needs to access to make their name a resident of intranets as well. It's a strategy highly reminiscent of Bloomberg, L.P.'s penetration of the financial securities marketplace: a "black box" solution that bypassed a lot of the I.T. department's allegiances to I.T.-centric content vendors with a solution that appealed first and foremost to users, with lots of reinforcement of the user-level brand value via popular media channels. In the meantime I.T.-centric Microsoft is just starting to catch up with its unfortunately named MSN Search toolbar (Reuters coverage), underscoring Redmond's predilection to confuse individual content needs with consumer content needs. Google's intranet, desktop and Web search tools may be the "80 percent of what 80 percent need" solution for many institutions, but by my calculations that could leave the rest of the search universe with about 36 percent of enterprise business to fight over in the years ahead. And like Bloomberg it may leave a lot of content aggregators and vendors scratching their heads about how they lost their hold over enterprise subscriptions far quicker than they may imagine today. If this is the improvement that we can see in only a year with fairly immature pieces, one can only speculate about the year ahead.
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