MOUNTAIN VIEW, California: Google has launched its latest online cash cow: a search engine service for small businesses in the US for which it will charge as little as $100 (€72; £49) a year.

It targets the millions of firms that have a web presence but don't offer users a way of searching their sites.

The online behemoth's new Custom Search Business Edition reduces "the hurdles of cost, complexity and time so that small businesses can help customers find what they need," according to vp and general manager at Google Enterprise Dave Girouard.

For the basic $100 fee, the service will search up to 5,000 web pages, while larger websites can pay $500 to search as many as 50,000 web pages.

Industry analysts say Google appears to be moving ever closer to direct confrontation with arch-rival Microsoft's core applications with the launch of a number of popular business web services including e-mail, calendars, spreadsheets and word processing [WARC News: 31-May-07].

Data sourced from Business Week (daily); additional content by WARC staff