Striking up digital video search

As more people consume multimedia online, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo are quietly upping the ante with new search tools for video.

Google, Microsoft and Yahoo are quietly developing new search tools for digital video, foreshadowing a high-stakes technology arms race in the battle for control of consumers' living rooms.

Google's effort, until now secret, is arguably the most ambitious of the three. According to sources familiar with the plan, the search giant is courting broadcasters and cable networks with a new technology that would do for television what it has already done for the Internet: sort through and reveal needles of video clips from within the haystack archives of major network TV shows.

The effort comes on top of Google's plans to create a multimedia search engine for Internet-only video that it will likely introduce next year, according to sources familiar with the company's plans. In recent weeks, Mountain View, Calif.-based Google has demonstrated new technology to a handful of major TV broadcasters in an attempt to forge alliances and develop business models for a TV-searchable database on the Web, those sources say.

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What's new:
Google, Microsoft and Yahoo are quietly developing new search tools for digital video.

Bottom line:
Video is in the spotlight as the Internet begins to mature into an entertainment platform and becomes a viable companion for television, convergence devices that combine PC and TV features, and the networked home.

More stories on video search

"Google's trying to bring TV to the Web the same way they're bringing books to the Web," according to a media executive who asked to remain anonymous.

Google declined to comment for this report.

While Google is immediately aiming to cater to the broadband market, Microsoft has its sights on the interactive TV market for cable providers, being ushered in by convergence devices like its Microsoft Media Center PC software. It is building technology that will let people with a Media Center PC or Internet-connected TV comb through and find specific video files available over the Internet, broadcast and video-on-demand networks, according to a source. The software giant is expected to showcase the technology at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January, the source said.

Yahoo is picking lower-hanging fruit. The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Web portal is planning to introduce a multimedia search engine and is working with Web entertainment and news aggregators to index video clips that are already online. According to one source, the company plans to introduce its service in the first quarter of 2005.

"Google's trying to bring TV to the Web the same way they're bringing books to the Web."
--anonymous source

America Online also will be a player in audio and video search. Earlier this year, the company bought audio-search company Singingfish.

Video is in the spotlight as the Internet begins to mature into an entertainment platform and becomes a viable companion for television, convergence devices that combine PC and TV features, and the networked home. As nearly 30 million U.S. households get wired with broadband Internet, more people are getting comfortable using multimedia online, giving TV audiences more choices than ever about how and when they consume programming.

That's poised to open up access to vast new video libraries that will require new search technology to organize and make content relevant to viewers, much like Internet search engines have made sense of billions of disorganized Web pages.

Cable operators, phone companies and satellite companies are also upping the ante for video, bringing interactive, on-demand services to the television through enhanced set-top boxes, personal digital video recorders and convergence PCs.

Search is the glue that will one day bind these services and help consumers navigate the increasing amount of available

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