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Microsoft introduces a search tool for all its search tools

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Microsoft introduces a search tool for all its search tools

Redmond (WA) – At today’s session of the 10th annual Microsoft CEO Summit, the company announced its next wave of products for the enterprise level for making a company’s entire data searchable and retrievable. The goal, marketing literature says, is “to help address the disconnect between that information and the people that need to act on it.” With those words today, Microsoft announced a new product named “Windows Live Search.”

If you think you’ve entered an alternate universe with a continuity break in it, you haven’t; This new product isn’t the same as “Windows Live Search,” the search feature presented through Microsoft’s new Windows Live service. Instead, as company co-president Kevin Johnson explained to attendees today, this other Windows Live Search is, as company literature puts it, “an enterprise search solution that provides a simple, secure, single point-of-entry for searches across corporate networks, desktops and the Internet.”

If that term “single” doesn’t clear things up for you, you might not be alone. This enterprise-level product falls under the purview of Johnson and the Platforms and Services Division, which he shares with outgoing co-president Jim Allchin. The pre-existing Windows Live Search product is still very much real, but falls under the penultimate leadership of CTO Ray Ozzie, who oversees Windows Live and MSN technology services.

Is it possible that two divisions of the company just happened to have picked the same name for their different products accidentally? Not from what you’ll discover if you read further down in the literature. The new product is being touted as a single clearing house for queries, binding together the search and retrieval features of multiple Microsoft search-capable products. In that list of things being bound together under one enterprise-level interface are “Windows Desktop Search, Intranet search provided by Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 and Internet search via Windows Live Search, among others.”

Naming two slightly dissimilar products the same thing is nothing new for Microsoft, whose file manager program and Web browser both continue to share the word “Explorer.”

For those of you keeping score at home, Windows Live is Microsoft’s testbed for next-generation Web services, whose search engine – which at one time flirted with the notion of being dubbed “Start.com” – is currently touted as Windows Live Search, which is perhaps best spoken with an emphasis on the “Search.” Microsoft’s distribution system for online advertising, called AdCenter, is currently tied in with this project, similar to the way Google’s AdSense ties in with its basic search functionality.

Meanwhile, Windows Desktop Search is a product currently in beta, which may eventually become part of Windows, or may remain available for free download. Its purpose is to create a search facility for documents and multimedia files within the user’s local network or computer, and is similar to Google Desktop Search in that regard. Windows Desktop Search is a project of the Office 2007 team, now led by corporate vice president Chris Capossella after Steven Sinofsky’s transfer to head the Windows Live team, which reports to Ozzie.

This brings us around to the other Windows Live Search, whose emphasis could be placed on the “Live” part, and whose development will fall under Kevin Johnson’s purview. Its purpose will be to place a natural-language search tool directly into the hands of the information worker, preferably…on the desktop. Search results compiled from multiple applications, including relational databases and even non-Microsoft applications such as SAP – as well as, if you can believe it, Windows Desktop Search – can be revealed here.

Although today’s Windows Live Search announcement came in tandem with news about SharePoint Server 2007, which is due out in the second half of this year, it would probably be wise not to construe the former as necessarily tied to the latter. Last year, Microsoft senior vice president Bob Muglia made a “tandem” announcement about Windows Server and Monad, the next-generation Windows command line tool (now called PowerShell), which many – including us – interpreted as being tied together, simply because both products were mentioned in the same sentences and shared the same PowerPoint slides. A thorough read of today’s announcement and supplemental materials leads us to believe there is nothing that specifically ties this new Windows Live Search to SharePoint Server, and that a release vehicle for this new enterprise tool may have yet to be decided.