As Sam Diaz reported this morning, Google introduced its new instant search product today, complete with predictive auto-complete and real-time search results. For those of us who turn to Google for our Internet search needs (and there are plenty of us), if we'd ever thought about straying to Bing or Yahoo!, this should keep us Googling for the foreseeable future. It's fast, it's clean, and it works very, very well.
Google has been criticized frequently for not focusing on its core business of search (and the related targeted advertising that goes with it, forming the basis for Google's billions in revenue). This certainly marks a step forward for the company since, while search has evolved behind the scenes over the last several years, there have been few visible changes to users. Aside from changes to the layout of Google's search results earlier this year, the average consumer wouldn't know about the millions in R&D that Google has invested in improving search. Like Bing's real-time video search previews, the instant search is striking.
Because this feature is only available on Chrome, Safari, Firefox and IE8 browsers, maybe it will be one more nail in the coffins of IE 6 and 7. Unfortunately, where this would have the most impact (mobile), there aren't any supported platforms yet. However, it seems likely that mobile Safari and Skyfire should be close behind given their support for other rich features in the Google ecosystem.
The most important takeaway from Google's perspective, however, is that any new whiz-bang features make the Bing-Yahoo juggernaut less attractive to users. While Bing and Yahoo individually controlled relatively small shares of the search market, together they start looking far more competitive. Instant search is a good start for Google in firmly reestablishing its dominance in search. What's next? My money is on mobile since so many queries now originate from iOS and Android browsers.