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Google on a budget

Google hopes to expand its share of the business software market with a scaled-down version of its popular search engine.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Google Inc. is setting out to expand its share of the business software market with a scaled-down version of its Internet-leading search engine that will go on sale Thursday for $4,995.

The Google Mini is tailored for the thousands of small- and medium-sized businesses that don't need or can't afford the more sophisticated products that the Mountain View-based company has been building for large companies during the past few years, said Dave Girouard, general manager of Google's enterprise search.

The budget model of Google's search engine, which comes fully loaded in a computer ready to be plugged into a network, will index about 50,000 documents. Google's larger search engine products scan anywhere from 150,000 to 15 million documents and cost from $32,000 to $500,000.

While it caters to smaller companies, Google also has upgraded its search software for bigger organizations. The upgrades include the power to pore through the information stored on databases and more flexibility with computer security systems.

"We want to make it so all companies can have their own private Google (search engines)," Girouard said. "Most employees already love using Google in other parts of their lives, so when a company brings us in, it's a move usually met with great applause and cheers."

Google's push into the business software market hasn't made much of a dent so far. Online advertising accounted for 98 percent of Google's $2.16 billion through the first nine months of 2004. Google pocketed just $35 million from software licensing and other sources during that period.

Playing catch up
While it has created the most widely used online search engine, Google has been playing catch up with other software makers such as Autonomy Corp. and Verity Inc. that build products for businesses trying to make it easier for employees and customers to find information on their Web sites.

Google says about 800 organizations have bought its search engine software so far.

With its sights now set on smaller businesses, Google is likely to bump up against a list of industry niche players that include dtSearch, Isys and Atomz, said Gartner analyst Whit Andrews.

Google's presence already has forced competitors to lower their prices — a factor likely to intensify with the new mini model, Andrews predicted.