While it's true that many now perceive Google to be synonymous with search, it may no longer be the case a couple of years down the road.
Posting revenues of US$1.6 billion in the third quarter of 2005, Google has been ringing in the registers because it has done the best job of fulfilling the insatiable need of online users seeking answers on the Web.
But that could all change in the near future as a growing list of familiar and new names including Yahoo, Quintura and Microsoft, look to cash in on the lucrative search market and displace Google from its throne.
The pot at the end of the rainbow way well be worth the chase. Research firm Gartner projects worldwide enterprise information access which includes search, to be worth US$338 million this year. Jupiter Research estimates that the U.S. search market alone is worth US$4.2 billion in advertising this year, and could grow to US$7.5 billion by 2010.
Ovum believes the sweet spot for the enterprise market for next-generation search is 2006, which is when the analyst predicts this market to be worth US$1 billion. By then, Ovum notes, advanced search capabilities will be embedded into business process and networks and elevate information access to new levels of sophistication.
The analyst anticipates next-generation search technologies to bring "new levels of intelligence, order and personalization" to the search process.
For some companies, that might mean bringing search to personal devices such as cellular phones.
Next year, users in the United States will be able to search a movie-and-theatre database by simply sending a picture of a billboard via their mobile phones.
Google this month also unveiled its test version of a search-based service that maps the most direct route for users of public transportation. According to the company's Web site, this service may be launched globally.
Yahoo decided to take search to a different level and introduced the beta version audio search engine, allowing people to sieve through 50 million music downloads, speeches, interviews, podcasts and various audio files.
The ability to provide tools that allow businesses and consumers to seek out the information they need is a powerful one, and the company that does this best will eventually win the game. But it will be an uphill task.
First, creating an index of the mountainous amount of offline and online data will be no easy task.
Google CEO Eric Schmidt himself acknowledged it would take about 300 years to index all information worldwide and make it searchable.
Second, search tools still need to be improved. And as they become increasingly sophisticated, users may have to pay to utilize some of these services. Microsoft has already taken the first step to commercialize its search offerings.
Finally, different search engines will yield different results, and larger systems will require higher availability and performance. With desktop search emerging as a hotly-contested market for key players Microsoft, Google and Yahoo, enterprises will have to look at each search engine and decide which platform best meets their needs.