I’ve been using the newly launched Tafiti search service from Microsoft. Here’s a couple of observations:

  1. It’s beautiful, no question about that. Fast too.
  2. The underlying search engine feels less than Google, which in this day and age is the benchmark by which search is measured. I’d give it a Google .8 rating (a rating of 1 being as good as Google).
  3. I can’t use  the "find" feature in my browser.
  4. The Tree View is fun for about 7 seconds, then it becomes irritating.
  5. The News and Images category displays are very cool, I’d use Tafiti for news search alone. As good as News and Images are, the Blog Feed category was completely useless in terms of results and the way they are presented.

Tafiti is a great demonstration of the potential that Silverlight gives web developers but as a search service I’ll likely pass. User interfaces can’t hide the shortcomings of the underlying service, and they certainly should not get in the way of the service itself, as is the case here.

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Spiceworks – Sponsored Software

Spiceworks, in Austin is a provider of IT management software, their twist is that the software is free, paid for by advertisers and sponsors.

First a little background, network management is a key basket of processes in the modern enterprise, including tracking of assets, help desk, troubleshooting, and monitoring. This is the meat-and-potatoes work that IT departments undertake.

This sector has been dominated by large vendors HP and IBM (Tivoli) for years and the barrier to those products has always been cost, in short they can be really expensive. Startups in the call center software space have been abundant, and some like Motive (also in Austin) have been very successful.

The software suite that is expected to be delived by any company in this space is pretty well defined, in other words a company can’t compete simply on the basis of a slightly better feature set. Spiceworks is compelling because they provide the standard feature set but disrupt the competitive landscape by going out with a business model that goes to the heart of what prevents companies from buying IT mgmt software suites, cost.

The software application embeds Google AdSense in a sidebar, meaning you get ads served up while using it and advertisers gain access to a highly targeted segment that spend a lot of time in the applciation itself. We are increasingly accustomed to the notion that websites and web applications can be generating their necessary revenue through advertising, but this is an example of a downloadable application that is doing the same thing, and apparently it is working with over 120,000 customers to date.