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Google Continues To Offer More for Less

The Google Search Appliance, on the market for more than three years, now searches up to 500,000 documents for $30,000, with two years of support. Previously, it searched up to 150,000 documents for $32,000.

Google Inc. Wednesday said that it has lowered the prices and raised the capacities of its search appliances.

The Google Mini, which debuted in January for $4,995 with the ability to search up to 50,000 documents, is now available for $2,995 with a 100,000-document license. The second year of support now costs $995, down from $2,500.

The Google Search Appliance, on the market for more than three years, now searches up to 500,000 documents for $30,000 and receives two years of support. Previously, it searched up to 150,000 documents for $32,000.

The move comes in response to customer demand, says Matt Glotzbach, product manager at Google. "Going back to our mission to make all the world's information universally accessible and usable, we want our customers to have as much in their search appliances as possible," he says.

Blame declining storage prices, too. "As storage prices continue to drop, there's more of a bent toward leaving information online and making it accessible to people," says Glotzbach. "Even in the small-business segment, you get a lot of companies that are buying simple Windows servers and loading them up with disk space and giving every user multiple gigs of public home-directory space."

In a statement, Dave Girouard, general manager of Google's enterprise business points to the proliferation of Web logs, "wikis," and other content. He says businesses are having a hard time keeping track of it all.

"The information explosion is certainly a major problem for businesses," says Sue Feldman, VP of content technologies at research firm IDC.

Google is more than happy to contain the information explosion, even as the company adds to the fire. Just last week, Google doubled the storage space available to users of its free Gmail service, ensuring the retention of even more information. And in 2003, Google acquired Blogger, one of the blog hosting services that's contributing to the proliferation of Web logs.

Search represents one of the few viable defenses against information overload. According to JupiterResearch analyst Eric Peterson, 30% of Web-site visitors will search before doing anything else. "Site operators really have an incentive to make the search good," he says.

That's what motivated enterprise software maker Informatica Corp. Tiffany Trevers, senior manager of Web marketing, says that after implementing a new Web statistics tool, Omniture Site Catalyst, "We were surprised to find that people went straight to search."

The statistics tool also revealed that many IT professionals coming to the company's site left after searching. That suggested the need for something better. For Informatica, the Google Mini search appliance fit the bill. Karen Steele, VP of corporate marketing, says her company took the advice of its customers, who asked for search that was "as easy to use as Google."

Google, of course, isn't the only provider of enterprise search solutions. Search Cacher, Inc. and Thunderstone Software LLC both offer search appliances. And companies such as Autonomy Corporation, Convera, Fast Search & Transfer, Verity, and Vivisimo sell business-oriented search software.

More than two decades ago, online pioneer Steward Brand famously said, "Information wants to be free, because the cost of getting it out is getting lower and lower all the time." He also observed "Information wants to be expensive, because it's so valuable. The right information in the right place just changes your life." For search companies, that tension has the makings of a good business model.

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