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Can a Semantic Kumo Wrestle Google to the Mat?

In about two weeks, Microsoft is expected to launch Kumo, its sort of old, sort of new search engine.

Microsoft regards Kumo as its Google killer, according to analyst Rob Enderle of the Enderle Group, and the software company is banking heavily on it despite deep internal divisions over the project.

Kumo will reportedly take over Microsoft’s Live Search and incorporate semantic Web search capabilities, which could be the next wave in search engine technology.

However, in some ways, the semantic Web is already creeping up on us — we just don’t know it yet.

What Is Kumo?

Kumo is a combination of Microsoft’s Live Search search engine and semantic Web technology the vendor acquired when it bought Powerset in July 2008, according to semantic Web expert Michael K. Bergman, CEO and cofounder of Structured Dynamics.

“I have looked at what’s been released with Kumo so far, and I’m quite familiar with Powerset,” he told TechNewsWorld.

San Francisco-based Powerset offered search and natural language capabilities based on an exclusive license it secured for natural-language processing technology from Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center in early 2007.

Microsoft made the purchase after walking away from negotiations to buy Yahoo earlier in the year.

Microsoft declined to comment for this story. “Microsoft does not comment on rumors or speculation,” Waggener Edstrom Account Coordinator Katy Spaulding told TechNewsWorld in response to an email request.

The Google Killer?

Microsoft has long lagged behind Google and Yahoo in the search engine marketplace. It has a powerful incentive to challenge the market leaders: A strong search engine would help its online ads business.

To that end, it has shaped Kumo as its weapon against Google in the search engine war.

“Kumo was designed from the ground up to be a Google killer,” Enderle told TechNewsWorld. “Microsoft put a lot of effort into it.”

What does Google think about this new kid on the block?

“Search is a highly competitive industry, and we welcome competition that stimulates innovation and provides users more choice,” Google spokesperson Nate Tyler told TechNewsWorld.

The project may be a costly one for Redmond. The amount of time and money Microsoft has spent on Kumo has caused deep divisions within the vendor’s management, Enderle said.

“I understand a lot of people on the Microsoft board want them to stop this project,” he added. “They want Microsoft to focus on things they do well and not waste any more money.”

Talks With Yahoo Resume

Could that division be why Microsoft has reportedly resumed talks with Yahoo recently? Is Microsoft looking again to buy Yahoo’s search engine?

Not likely, Enderle said. “We don’t really know what they’re talking to Yahoo about.”

Buying up Yahoo’s search technology now could prove troublesome, he noted.

“You wouldn’t want to throw together a lot of technologies from different vendors in the hope that they’re going to work,” Enderle explained. “You’ll spend all your time trying to integrate these separate products that weren’t built with the idea of integrating with anything else.”

The Semantic Web

The semantic Web provides a common framework that lets data be shared and reused across applications, enterprises and communities, according to W3C, an international Web standards consortium.

The semantic Web is essentially already here, and Kumo is a part of it, Structured Dynamics’ Bergman said. “Google’s doing a lot there, but very quietly.”

Basically, the semantic Web adds structure to Web searches. However, users will see increased structure such as the search results in the center of the page and a hierarchical organization of concepts or attributes in the left-hand column, which is what Kumo appears to be doing.

3 Comments

  • well, if this works as lackluster as everything else MS does, it won’t help them much.

    also, I hope they run it on their own platform, it will be so slow that it will turn most users off; can anyone remember the hotmail takeover?

  • This should be interesting…or not.

    Given the lackluster operating systems and applications from Microsoft, I’m not expecting much from Kumo.

    But, we shall see.

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