Google may be facing some news competition from a venerable technology source: Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center.
Xerox PARC has agreed to license an array of patents and technology to a new start up, Powerset, which will focus on "natural language" search. Other companies have been working in the field as well, but Powerset is counting on the PARC technology, along with the $12.5 million it raised earlier this year, to help it take on Google.
But one question remains: even if Powerset has better technology, is there a market for it? Or will people be content to stick with the search they know?
Blog community response:
"Unless these guys are thinking 3-5 years (at least) to gain traction, forget it. And it has to be significantly better than what exists now. If it's only marginally or imperceptibly better, again forget it. This is Microsoft's problem--not enough differentiation."
"It's impossible to judge Powerset before we actually see the product. They are, however, trying to solve a very difficult problem for which there may or may not be not much of a market (at least compared to simple, 2-3 word searches). And Google has "several teams focused on natural language and dozens of Googlers with a PhD in the field, including myself," says Peter Norvig, Director of Research, Google. If we start to see some of those PhDs leave Google and join Powerset, that will be the first sign that the company is really on to something big."
"People tend to be lazy and type queries that contain an average of 2-3 words - that wouldn't help too much a natural language search engine, so it would ask more in-depth questions about your query. For a lot of queries (e.g.: navigational queries, like "snap"), you'll spend more time refining the ambiguous query. Google tries to balance the top results, and the most important pages are first."
--Google Operating System