The humble search engine that marked the rise of Yahoo and the Internet portals in the mid-1990s has made a comeback. Search has rapidly replaced browsing as the way we find things on the Internet. Google, Yahoo and Microsoft are joined in battle as search becomes the way we surf.
Search engine advertising linked with keywords has become one of the fastest growing segments in online advertising. This has been a boon for small businesses it is perhaps the lowest-cost marketing avenue, and also allows them to analyse the cost per lead.
2004: Expect more personalization, verticalisation and localisation in search. Googles IPO will be on the big events of 2004. Amazon, too, will make a strong play, powered by its Search Inside the Book.
7. Linux and Open-Source Software
The action on the Linux front continued in 2003 flanked by Suns announced of its Java Desktop System and Novells purchase of Suse and Ximian. Even as Linux continues its rise on the server space, what is now interesting is the battle for the desktop and mobile devices. The year also saw many governments expressing support for Linux notably, South Korea, Vietnam, South Africa and Brazil. A trio of Asian governments wants its create its own open-source alternate to Microsofts Windows. Linux has rapidly emerged as the top threat to Microsofts domination of the computer space.
While it is hard to see users in the developed markets shifting to Linux primarily on account of the lock-in enforced by the MS-Office file formats, it is the emerging markets which hold the greatest potential for Linux. The solution so far has been piracy of Microsoft products, but that cannot continue ad infinitum. The middle path between piracy and non-consumption is that of affordability, and that is where Linux and other open-source software comes in. Linux is the foundation on which developing countries can build their technology foundation, and this is a realisation that dawned on many local and national governments (the biggest spenders on IT) in 2003.
The year also saw action on the legal front, as SCO sued IBM and threatened the very edifice of Linux. From what it appears, the community has already discounted any possibility of a win by SCO, and Linuxs open-source foundation remains very much intact.
2004: The coming year will see the first serious assault on Microsofts desktop monopoly. Governments will continue to the biggest drivers for accelerating Linux adoption. Localisation of Linux (support for languages) will pick up momentum.
Next Week: 2003-04 (continued)