Analysis of enterprise search vendor Coveo and its products. Related subjects include:
I believe there are two ways search will improve significantly in the future. First, since talking is easier than typing, speech recognition will allow longer and more accurate input strings. Second, search will be informed by much more persistent user information, with search companies having very detailed understanding of searchers. Based on that, I expect:
- A small oligopoly dominating the conjoined businesses of mobile device software and search. The companies most obviously positioned for membership are Google and Apple.
- The continued and growing combination of search, advertisement/recommendation, and alerting. The same user-specific data will be needed for all three.
- A whole lot of privacy concerns.
My reasoning starts from several observations:
- Enterprise search is greatly disappointing. My main reason for saying that is anecdotal evidence — I don’t notice users being much happier with search than they were 15 years ago. But business results are suggestive too:
- HP just disclosed serious problems with Autonomy.
- Microsoft’s acquisition of FAST was a similar debacle.
- Lesser enterprise search outfits never prospered much. (E.g., when’s the last time you heard mention of Coveo?)
- My favorable impressions of the e-commerce site search business turned out to be overdone. (E.g., Mercado’s assets were sold for a pittance soon after I wrote that, while Endeca and Inquira were absorbed into Oracle.)
- Lucene/Solr’s recent stirrings aren’t really in the area of search.
- Web search, while superior to the enterprise kind, is disappointing people as well. Are Google’s results any better than they were 8 years ago? Google’s ongoing hard work notwithstanding, are they even as good?
- Consumer computer usage is swinging toward mobile devices. I hope I don’t have to convince you about that one.
In principle, there are two main ways to make search better:
- Understand more about the documents being searched over. But Google’s travails, combined with the rather dismal history of enterprise search, suggest we’re well into the diminishing-returns part of that project.
- Understand more about what the searcher wants.
The latter, I think, is where significant future improvement will be found.
|Categories: Autonomy, Coveo, Endeca, Enterprise search, FAST, Google, Lucene, Mercado, Microsoft, Search engines, Speech recognition, Structured search||5 Comments|
Lynda Moulton, to put it mildly, disagrees with the Gartner Magic Quadrant analysis of enterprise search. Her preferred approach is captured in:
Coveo, Exalead, ISYS, Recommind, Vivisimo, and X1 are a few of a select group that are marking a mark in their respective niches, as products ready for action with a short implementation cycle (weeks or months not years).
By way of contrast, Lynda opines:
Autonomy and Endeca continue to bring value to very large projects in large companies but are not plug-and-play solutions, by any means. Oracle, IBM, and Microsoft offer search solutions of a very different type with a heavy vendor or third-party service requirement. Google Search Appliance has a much larger installed base than any of these but needs serious tuning and customization to make it suitable to enterprise needs.
In particular, her views about FAST (now Microsoft) are scathing.
I chatted with Brooke Aker, the new CEO of Expert System’s US subsidiary, for quite a while last week. Unfortunately, we had some cell phone problems, and email followup hasn’t gone well, so I’m hazy on a few details. But here are some highlights, as best I understood them. Read more
|Categories: Application areas, Competitive intelligence, Coveo, Expert System S.p.A., Ontologies, Text mining||2 Comments|
I talked yesterday with enterprise search vendor Coveo. Here are some highlights.
- Coveo spun out of Copernic a few years ago. The only relationship between the companies now is that Coveo licenses Copernic’s desktop search product.
- Coveo has 60 employees.
- Coveo has 5-600 customers, including lots of big-name companies.
- Coveo’s pitch boils down to “inexpensive, easy to install, and no-apologies functionality.” Actually, Coveo also claims superior relevance and performance, but I’m not going to comment much on those until I have a chance for a more technical discussion.
- Example of ease of set-up: Coveo says Factiva downloaded the product on a Monday, called up and bought it on Thursday, and deployed it in production that Friday. This may be a growing industry trend. Attivio also features a “download first, talk to us second” distribution model. So do vendors of other kinds of “platform” software such as database management systems, application servers, or complex event/stream processing.
- Average selling price: $50K. Everything is included for one price unless it requires bundled third-party software (as is the case for audio, video, and OCR search).
- Coveo claims 90% head-to-head win rates vs. Google OneBox and Microsoft Sharepoint search. Generally, customers have other search products too (I guess that’s obvious, since Coveo has only been around 2-3 years). Sometimes they even have all-you-can-eat licenses to competitive products, but buy from Coveo anyway. Rule of thumb: Nobody’s head-to-head win rate is truly as high as they like to think, but companies that think their rate is 90% generally are doing quite well.
- Coveo cites a strong demand for text search of relational databases. Based on specific examples cited, this seems to mean text fields such as call center notes.
- Coveo offers audio/video search. Really, it’s just an audio search technology; what’s being searched on in videos is the audio part. And the audio search boils down to a speech-to-text transcription, with a search of the resulting text. Coveo’s key claim is that the error-laden text you get from speech-to-text conversion is sufficient for useful searching. Specifically, you do best searching for unusual words, such as proper names. In the case of telephone calls, which are low quality – perhaps 32 kb/sec – Coveo says there’s only 10-20% accuracy in word transcription. However, Coveo also says that the words that do come through are exactly the unusual ones most usefully searched on.
- Coveo also says that its speech-to-text lexicon is initially strengthened by text crawls. In general, while I didn’t ask, I would guess that the easy-installation story involves a fair amount of automated lexicon enhancement.