Yahoo deal risks search battle between Microsoft and IBM

Yahoo's decision to use Microsoft's Bing search engine could cause a competitive conflict between Microsoft and IBM in the enterprise search market, analysts have said.

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Yahoo's decision to use Microsoft's Bing search engine could cause a competitive conflict between Microsoft and IBM in the enterprise search market, analysts have said.

Yahoo and IBM have offered since late 2006 a free, entry-level enterprise search product called IBM OmniFind Yahoo Edition, for which Yahoo provides a user interface component as well as Web search.

That IBM-Yahoo product competes directly against the also-free Microsoft Search Server 2008 Express.

If Bing ends up playing the part of Yahoo search in IBM OmniFind Yahoo Edition, Microsoft would be in a way competing against itself, while IBM would be using a rival's technology in its own product.

Although both are free, IBM OmniFind Yahoo Edition and Microsoft Search Server 2008 Express are strategically important because they are the entry-level options in each company's respective families of enterprise search wares.

As such, the products act as bait to reel in potential customers who later often upgrade to the vendors' more sophisticated and powerful fee-based models, which also compete directly against each other.

"Microsoft and IBM are absolutely squarely positioned to compete with each other in enterprise search," Whit Andrews, a Gartner analyst, said.

One thing that is clear is that Yahoo intends to shut off its search engines, so unless an exception is made, IBM will have to find a replacement for Yahoo search in IBM OmniFind Yahoo Edition.

Whether that replacement ends up being Bing or another commercial search engine, there is bound to be some impact from the transition on corporate users and on independent developer partners who have built tools and extensions for the IBM-Yahoo product.

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