Document filters as a search proxy war

Document filters. There’s a phrase to conjure up excitement in any technologist eh? No? Didn’t think so. But look more carefully at what is going on and it does get more interesting, trust me.

I was moved to expand in this by Isys Search Software’s recent attempt at guerilla marketing at Oracle Open World which it tweeted about here:

isyssearch: ISYS goes guerrilla; kicked out of Oracle Open World party after projecting our branding on the Metreon #oow10

Quite apart from what it says about Isys and how much it’s changed in the last two years – a bit like the nerdy guy in the playground trying to act tough – it shows how important some people – including me – think these filters have become.

There are two main companies selling products that enable the opening and viewing of myriad file formats (400 is a common number cited by both the vendors and their customers). So when a search engine comes across a Word 1997 or even something like  Wordstar 4 file, how does it open it? Usually using one of two products: Oracle’s OutsideIn or Autonomy’s IDOL KeyView.

Both products came to these companies via acquisitions: Autonomy buying Verity in November 2005 and Oracle buying Stellent in 2007, (and Stellent, as it wasn’t known then, buying Inso in 2000). It’s also interesting to note that Isys still refers to them as Inso in its marketing even though the product has been called something else for years.

Like all OEM technology, these filters aren’t easily ripped out and replaced. And that’s what these two vendors like about them. It gives them a a foot in the door at software companies that they can try to expand upon, and quite often they do. The temptation of course is to use the difficulty to remove them as a point of leverage to crank up prices.

And that’s what we’re hearing Autonomy is doing from a number of vendors. We haven’t heard anything similar regarding Oracle, it should be noted. Autonomy has a reasonably significant OEM technology stream and as we have mentioned previously Autonomy regularly brags about its OEM wins, without specifying whether its KeyView or the full IDOL engine being OEMd. Incidentally after that earlier post Autonomy contacted us to say that KeyView isn’t the result of the acquisition of Verity and all it bought was the name. That’s despite what was said at the time, including its own press release shortly after the acquisition bragging about its features. But then Autonomy’s marketing these days increasingly requires a willing suspension of disbelief.

Isys has had this technology for a while but never sold it separately. But now it is finding quite a bit of success among software vendors nervous about having a key piece of technology owned by Autonomy or Oracle because they’re often search and/or content management companies; two markets in which both companies play. dtSearch, another veteran OEM provider also provides similar filters.

So for the first time in a long time, ISVs have a choice beyond the main two in filters and in their close relatives, connectors, the software to connect search engines to databases, content management systems and other repositories. In the often incestuous world of information management software, where vendors both compete and sell to one another, these have become points of leverage that customers may not notice in terms of functionality, but they certainly do in terms of the price they have to pay for their software.

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1 comment so far ↓

#1 JJ on 10.19.10 at 12:32 pm

I worked at Verity when it acquired Keyview. So not sure how Autonomy felt it only purchased the “name”…”somewhere”…from….”someone”.

Frankly, the Oracle/Stellent product is still better and more mature. But I’m sure AU would dispute that too.