This one almost slipped right past me but I see we are in another shoot-out in the naming of search market segments. Probably it is because we have too many offerings in the search industry. When any industry reaches a critical mass, players need to find a way to differentiate what they sell. Products have to be positioned as, well, “something else.”

In my consulting practice “knowledge management” has been hot (1980s and 90s), dead (late ’90s and early 2000s), relevant again (now). In my analyst role for “enterprise search” Gilbane has been told by experts that the term is meaningless and should be replaced with “behind the firewall search,” as if that clarifies everything. Of course, marketing directories might struggle with that as a category heading.

For the record, “search” has two definitions in my book. The first is a verb referring to the activity of looking for anything. The second, newer, definition is a noun referring to technologies that support finding “content.” Both are sufficiently broad to cover a lot of activities, technologies and stuff. “Enterprises” are organizations of any type in which business, for-profit, non-for-profit, or government, is being conducted. Let us quibble no more.

But I digress; Endeca has broadened its self-classification in any number of press releases to referring to its products that were “search” products last year, as “information access software.” This is the major category used by IDC to include “search.” That’s what we called library systems in the 1970s and 80s. New products still aim for accessing content, albeit with richer functions and features but where are we going to put them in our family of software lists? One could argue that Endeca‘s products are really a class of “search,” search on steroids, a specialized form of search. What are the defining differentiators between “search software” and “information access software?” When does a search product become more than it was or narrower, refined in scope? (This is a rhetorical question but I’m sure each vendor in this new category will break-it out for me in their own terms.)

Having just finished reviewing the market for enterprise search, I believe that many of the products are reaching for the broader scope of functionality defined by IDC as being: search and retrieval, text analytics, and BI. But are they really going to claim to be content management and data warehousing software, as well? Those are included in IDC’s definition of “information access software.” May-be we are going back to single-vendor platforms with everything bundled and integrated. Sigh… it makes me tired, trying to keep up with all this categorizing and re-redefining.

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