17 Gifts at All-Time Lows Gifts Under $30 ChatGPT, a Mindblowing AI Chatbot Neuralink Investigation Kirstie Alley Dies New Deadline for Real ID RSV Facts Space Tomatoes
Want CNET to notify you of price drops and the latest stories?
No, thank you

Microsoft giving away business search tools

Software maker slims down SharePoint into a free server-based program for managing corporate search, aiming to take on Google and start-ups.

Microsoft thinks it has found the right price for its enterprise search tool: free.

Starting next year, the company plans to give away a new product, dubbed Microsoft Search Server 2008 Express, which enables workers to see a collection of search results spanning databases, internal computer systems, and the Internet. In addition to the free product, Microsoft plans a paid version that is essentially the same, but is licensed to run on more than one physical server. Microsoft said it will announce pricing for that product closer to its launch next year.

But by announcing the product now, Microsoft hopes to garner some attention, and eventually bring out a product that can boost its position in both enterprise and Web search.

"We really believe enterprise search is at a tipping point," said Jared Spataro, group product manager for enterprise search. "We really think people will look back on this time as the time when search went from just being a consumer tool to one that businesses can harness."

Microsoft plans to put out a "release candidate" test version of the Express product Tuesday, with plans to release the final server software--and its paid counterpart--early next year. Both titles combine the search of internal files with the ability to search external databases and Web sites, such as Google News, Wikipedia, and BusinessWeek.

By default, both products will also include search results from Microsoft's Live.com search engine, and those who click for "more results" will be taken to Live.com from within their browser. Microsoft did say that users will be able to remove the link to Live.com's results, as well as include results from other search providers.

The new products are derived from Microsoft SharePoint Server, which contains additional features for corporate portals, such as a people-finding tool that can act like a social-networking program for corporations.

IBM already offers a free enterprise search tool in collaboration with Yahoo. Google is also investing in enterprise search, as are niche firms such as Autonomy, Fast Search & Transfer, and Endeca.

Spataro said the new products are particularly aimed at the start-ups, whose products, he said, are often too expensive to allow the bulk of users to benefit.

"We really feel the technology is good enough," Spataro said. "The problem has been that it has been all bottled up."

For some time now, Microsoft has vowed to battle Google in the enterprise search area. Last month, Google introduced an update to its enterprise search appliance that allows "social" search.

Fast Search & Transfer said in a statement that it "applauds" Microsoft's move.

"Today's announcement further validates what we at Fast have known for some time--search has moved beyond the search box to become a critical part of enterprise infrastructure," said Zia Zaman, the company's senior vice president and global strategy chief. "This naturally pits Google, with its success within Web search and entry-level enterprise search, against Microsoft, which is keen to retain control of the small- to medium-sized marketplace. Microsoft has been developing an impressive portfolio of search and collaboration tools that are going to help businesses significantly improve their productivity and make better use of their information assets."