Most of our Google (GOOG) searches start in our browser box. Browsers also support multiple search engines although 99% of the time we just default to Google. This browser intermediary never caused us much concern until some new browser technology that isn’t really all that new but at some point will catch on.
The key concern with respect to these new browsing technologies is that they expand the layer of functionality between the user and the search engine. It’s not hard to imagine that the click rates from searches might go down quite a bit if you can see the web page without having to click on it.
The Google interface has been a winner through simplicity but it’s possible that we are reaching a point where more sophisticated post-query processing will be just as important. Many of these new tools also offer improved filtering to better match search intention with results.
Of course experienced users know how to use more advanced search techniques like "and" or "not" operators but the average public doesn’t. There’s a good bit more to the Google story than raw search. Disintermediation isn’t a good thing for companies. iTunes is a good example in music and entertainment. Maybe Microsoft (MSFT) (with IE) and Apple (AAPL) (with Safari) have a little more potential in search than we first thought. It will be interesting to see to what extent they try and leverage their client software positions.