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Microsoft Buys Search Engine, Going After Google? 256

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the yeah-sure-why-not dept.
obsolete1349 writes "Microsoft has just bid 1.2 billion dollars for FAST (Fast Search And Transfer [Microsoft to use a self-recursive acronym?]), an enterprise search company. 'Microsoft can bundle FAST with its Microsoft Office SharePoint Server' with its soon-to-be-customers Comcast, Disney, Microsoft, Pfizer, and UBS."
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Microsoft Buys Search Engine, Going After Google?

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  • by Cytlid (95255) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @12:01PM (#21969328)
    ...I'm going to snipe them and bid 1.3 Billion at the last second.
    • by JeepFanatic (993244) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @12:07PM (#21969428)
      You're assuming that Microsoft doesn't have a proxy bid in place already to outbid you during your snipe attempt.
    • by rasputin465 (1032646) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @12:17PM (#21969616)
      Go for it, you can probably find the thing on ebay...
    • by NSIM (953498) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @12:38PM (#21969910)
      FAST is a search engine designed for searching unstructured data files such as word and email folders, it's not really intended for use as web search engine. It's mostly an embedded search-engine used in other products (for example I believe that EMC's Centera uses FAST for the text search capabilities.) As such, I would expect it to become the search-engine embedded in SharePoint, along with some sort of a policy engine to do data classification and management.
      • by CopaceticOpus (965603) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @01:17PM (#21970544)
        So they're going after grep?
        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward
          Apparently, they thought they were going after "gerp", whatever the hell that is.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by UnknowingFool (672806)
        So wouldn't this mean that they are trying to match Apple's desktop search technology. After all Microsofts were wowed by Spotlight when it first appeared. [informationweek.com]
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by rucs_hack (784150)
        so its more as an alternative to google desktop search then? I thought microsoft already had one of those. Not that I've ever used it, so I can't say how good/bad it is.

        Doesn't matter anyway, they can buy all the search engines they want, but Google have mindshare they can't buy. Perhaps they're just worried Google might buy it, or someone else, so they bought it up to keep it away from competition.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Wowsers (1151731)

        FAST is a search engine designed for searching unstructured data files such as word and email folders

        Maybe Microsoft could apply it to their whole Windows OS's, files seem to be scattered in no logical places all over the drive. \Windows \Documents and settings \My Documents to name three locations that Microsoft decided to scatter user files, and that doesn't even take into account if you keep your files on another partition or drive all together, because it still shoves some of your documents in those three folders for no logical reason.

    • Re:That's ok... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by BillGod (639198) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @12:42PM (#21969968)
      Microsoft needs to buy a search engine. A couple months ago I wanted to download XP SP2 on a pc that I just loaded. Since it was just loaded and I opened IE it defaulted to Microsoft's site. I searched for "windows xp service pack 2". After the 4th link that I clicked on that WAS NOT a download for SP2. I went to google. Searched the exact same phrase. First like was the download site at microsoft.com There's something to be said about that.
    • Oh the irony (Score:3, Informative)

      by mrslacker (1122161) *
      There's a hidden hilarity here which won't be obvious to most readers.

      I worked for a little known search engine company called Convera - formerly known as Excalibur and under other guises. It has been around for over 20 years and has been constantly on the verge of the next best thing. Its most successful product, RetrievalWare (RW) was very popular in government circles during the late 90s and early 2000s.

      Last year, making its only real profit in all that time (it has burned through about $1Bn in financi
    • Stop Losers from Overwhelming the World
  • Always wins the race in the end.
    • Always wins the race in the end.

      ...aww, damnit! Now I'm gonna have to go learn to admin a HURD box.

      /P

    • by Blakey Rat (99501)
      So when everything related to computers is perfected beyond all hope of improvement, they'll all be running HURD?

      Sorry I don't think that proverb works for everything.
  • by jmhowitt (212498) <jmhowitt@mac.com> on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @12:06PM (#21969416) Homepage
    ..... search engine? Why do they need two?
  • Bundle it, eh? Some will say "hooray, more functionality!" Others will cry, "unfair competition!" Microsoft will make more money, more people will stick with a mediocre Microsoft product out of inertia and/or lock-in, and, in other news, the sun will rise.

  • by Yuioup (452151) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @12:10PM (#21969488)
    Microsoft has been using one for quite some time now:

    http://msdn2.microsoft.com/nl-nl/directx/aa937793(en-us).aspx [microsoft.com]

    Q: What does XNA stand for?
    A: XNA's Not Acronymed

  • Great (Score:5, Funny)

    by teebob21 (947095) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @12:12PM (#21969522) Journal
    What a wonderful development; MS buys FAST for search, and the majority of the computing world faces a little more SLOW: Software Lock-in On Windows.
  • FAST has been losing money like crazy, and Microsoft completely bailed them out by over-paying for the buy out. The acquisition does not make any sense. A company that is incapable of profiting from its products normally indicates that the product is lacking.

    -i
    • by INeededALogin (771371) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @12:22PM (#21969688) Journal
      A company that is incapable of profiting from its products normally indicates that the product is lacking.

      or...

      the market is saturated
      the market is not ready
      the company can't market

      If the technology is good then Microsoft probably wants to use it and prevent Yahoo, Google and others from buying it.
    • FAST has been losing money like crazy, and Microsoft completely bailed them out by over-paying for the buy out. The acquisition does not make any sense. A company that is incapable of profiting from its products normally indicates that the product is lacking.

      That thinking is, like, soooooooo pre-1998. Next thing you'll be telling me is that a company with nothing but a sock puppet and a Super Bowl ad won't make money. Get with the 90s.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @12:14PM (#21969552)
    It seems that quite a few FAST employees are currently submitting their resumes to other companies here in Norway at the moment. I've seen more than a couple during the last couple of days.

    Funny, that.
  • I know companies have been doing this for ages but do these tech acquisitions make sense in the long run? I've only ever been involved in non-tech buyouts and it always seems like the value of the acquired company ends up being destroyed by the new step-parent. There's the whole -- I refuse to use synergy so I'll instead call it the "thing" -- there's the "thing" that makes the company work, the sum of management culture, staff, institutional knowledge, and relationships built up with customers and vendors.
    • Buyouts are done for a number of reasons:
      • acquire technology/products
      • acquire customer base
      • remove competitor from landscape
      • enter new markets
      • enhance/improve/replace parent's base products
      • ...

      With all change there will be ills and spills. Often the acquired group will have defectors as the hierarchy above of them just got a lot higher and often there is a feeling that there is a glass ceiling thrown inbetween the two organizations.

      However, often what the media/public freak out over (the ills

      • However, often what the media/public freak out over (the ills and spills) and rarely do they go back after a (long) adjustment period and praise the benefits of such a merger. You point out one great example: HP/Compaq. Sure there were problems, and many continue today, but no one can say that HP is in a terrible place today [hp.com], they are vying for first place [google.com] in PC and notebook sales. Yes, there have been some major bumps in the road and much of what HP is doing today is different from their "heyday"...but where would they be today if they had only focused on printers and calculators?

        All I have to go on with HP is what I read online, take with a grain of whatever salt you prefer. That being said, the last I heard is that HP is rather buggered internally, the quality of life is very poor for the engineers. Through sheer bulk they're still getting sales and doing business but their customers are not happy with the products and will be ready to leap when an opportunity presents itself.

        Granted, this is just scuttlebutt. Maybe there have been improvements since Firoina left. The last big HP

  • by shaitand (626655) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @12:16PM (#21969588) Journal
    Fast Search And Transfer would be FSAT or FST, not FAST. Microsoft is allowed to have self-recursive acronyms if they are bugged. ;)
  • FAST? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by oahazmatt (868057) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @12:17PM (#21969620) Journal

    Microsoft has just bid 1.2 billion dollars for FAST (Fast Search And Transfer
    Wouldn't that be FSAT?

    That aside, I see Microsoft as a company that's losing direction by pulling itself in too many at once. The company seems to be Hell-bent on conquering every corner of their market, and then any markets they hadn't originally targeted. I feel that a lot of their recent releases on their broad spectrum of product lines have been rather mediocre.

    I can see why the company may believe it is necessary to incorperate this into their other products, but didn't Microsoft already introduce a search engine that was supposed to compete with Google? Wasn't that what Live [live.com] was for?
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by hasdikarlsam (414514)
      You Do Not Mention the FSAT.

      (No, it's actually FAst Search and Transfer)
    • by vimh42 (981236)
      I do seem to recall MS having a search engine. Much trumpeting and fan fair and all that. That they are buying 'FSAT' to get into the search engine game more doesn't fill me with a lot of confidence. I'd like to see them put more effort into their core products than play with search engines. Sure search is important within their current product line, but if they are having to buy Fast because their in house stuff isn't up to snuff, I don't see them really getting into the game.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by yancey (136972)
      I agree completely. Microsoft does not seem to be innovating nor does it seem to have any sharp vision of the future. The consumer is beginning to notice that new versions of Windows and Office don't have much to offer over the old versions and even the free software is catching up. Microsoft does indeed seem to be running scared and buying up any sort of tech in any area of the industry that is the least bit innovative before the competition can get to it. Search, we got that. Games, we got that. Touchscre
    • by RobBebop (947356)

      I feel that a lot of their recent releases on their broad spectrum of product lines have been rather mediocre.

      Hmm... this has been true dating back to MS-DOS.

      Keep in mind, they are competing against Google. Google is ALSO getting involved in every god-damned corner of the market. They are just doing it better. They just have the advantage that "the advertising model" is more lucrative than "the software sales and licensing" model, right now.

      And FSF guarantees the eventual destruction of "the software sales and licensing" model... so Microsoft has good reason to diversify.

    • That aside, I see Microsoft as a company that's losing direction by pulling itself in too many at once. The company seems to be Hell-bent on conquering every corner of their market, and then any markets they hadn't originally targeted.

      Yes, and that is called being a conglomerate. When the growth in your primary market has topped out (compared to the 1990s at least), you seek for growth elsewhere (like acquiring companies). It's the best way to ensure that executives keep their jobs. It means nothing for the consumer however.

  • Let no-one be mistaken: this is Microsoft making a 1.2 billion $ investment in Innovation the way we are used to see from it. And in a sharp divergence from its usual practice, this Innovation results in a high-quality ready-to-run product.

    Jay! Keep innovating Microsoft!

    • by oahazmatt (868057)

      Let no-one be mistaken: this is Microsoft making a 1.2 billion $ investment in Innovation the way we are used to see from it.
      In Microsoft's defense*, Apple is another company that is known to make an acquisition rather than develop in-house. This includes their OS.

      *The dirt won't come off.
  • by Anal Surprise (178723) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @12:21PM (#21969678)
    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2003/02/25/overture_buys_fasts_web_search/ [theregister.co.uk]

    Overture bought FAST's search arm before Yahoo in turn bought Overture.

    Now they grew a new arm, and are selling that one to Microsoft?

    Outstanding.
    • by X (1235) <x@xman.org> on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @01:08PM (#21970428) Homepage Journal

      Overture bought FAST's search arm before Yahoo in turn bought Overture.

      Now they grew a new arm, and are selling that one to Microsoft?


      No. Overture bought FAST's *web search* arm. They didn't buy the enterprise search stuff, which was actually FAST's more profitable business, and the only part that could run on Windows. Microsoft bought the enterprise search division, which makes a heck of a lot of sense to integrate in to SharePoint (and integrating web search in to SharePoint would just be stupid).
    • by ianare (1132971)

      Overture is stumping up to $100m cash for the Internet business of Fast Search & Transfer (FAST)... it gets FAST WebSearch, AlltheWeb.com, and FAST PartnerSite.

      FAST says it will now focus on its enterprise search business, which currently accounts for 75 per cent of turnover.

      From your source, they only sold off a portion of their business (the internet stuff), and kept doing the enterprise stuff. M$ now wants to buy their enterprise stuff. Nothing unusual here.

  • I don't get it.... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by misleb (129952) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @12:23PM (#21969696)
    How can a search engine that nobody has ever heard of be worth 1.3 billion? Especially if they only plan on integrating it with Office. How hard coudl it possibly be to develop a search engine for Office from scratch? Certainly it wouldn't cost anywhere near 1.2 BILLION. And when you buy someone else's engine, you still have to integrate it with your software which, depending on how different the code bases are, can be nearly as difficult as just doing it from scratch. So.. WTF? I'd understand if they were buying some big name engine to get a Brand and customers and such. But this? Sounds like a money waster.

    -matthew
    • by repvik (96666) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @12:38PM (#21969916)
      In the good old days, before Googling became a word, there was competition in the search market. FAST had AllTheWeb.com, and at that time the difference between FAST and Google wasn't big. FAST has had quite a few great minds employed, but Google beat them to the punch. I liked FAST, and I used to work for them maintaining linux and *bsd servers. Great company :)
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Matthew,

      Thanks for taking an indepth look at our pending bid. We thought it would be a good idea, but we didn't spend any time researching the deal and seeing if it would be worth it. You are totally right and totally were able to explore all the facets of the deal and show us the error of our ways. Geez, we're dumb sometimes!

      Thanks again,

      Bill Gates
    • by snillfisk (111062) <mats@ l i n dh.no> on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @01:21PM (#21970598) Homepage
      As others have pointed out, FAST does not currently provide a public Search Engine which most people associate with the term. They provide the actual engine for their customers, which range from regular, public search engines, to yellow pages providers, inhouse research document indexing, public information indexing (their software is among others deployet as a search services for the norwegian house of representatives, where the representatives and their staff can obtain documentation indexed by several key properties).

      Microsoft is buying FAST to get this expertise, to get a software development house which can develop custom solutions for very large customers (think 10-50k employees, where the amount of documents produced are enormous) in a private and personal setting. FAST deliver quite a few consultancy services too, although they've had quite the burn rate lately and downsized a bit recently.

      FAST previously showcased their engine as alltheweb.com, their ftpsearch (which was very popular in the late 1998-1999) and were one of the main players in the market when Google launched. The latest "regular" search engine to use FAST in Norway was SESAM, which features a news search, a regular search index, a yellow pages search and several others. They did however recently switch to Yahoo for their regular index. And as other also have mentioned, Yahoo bought overture .. which bought another division of FAST before that again.. FAST in Trondheim went from being FAST, to Overture and now Yahoo Norway.
    • by smallpaul (65919)

      How can a search engine that nobody has ever heard of be worth 1.3 billion?

      If you cared about either enterprise search or enterprise content management, you would have heard of FAST. The article title might have mislead you into thinking that this has anything whatsoever to do with Web search. It doesn't.

  • "with its soon-to-be-customers Comcast, Disney, Microsoft, Pfizer, and UBS" I understand why it is said, but it is just very silly ...
  • by smallpaul (65919) <paulNO@SPAMprescod.net> on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @12:29PM (#21969792)
    The title of this post makes no sense. FAST is an enterprise search engine. It isn't even remotely like Google. In fact if you RTFA, you'll see it says: "You can expect Google to make a purchase in enterprise search along with traditional enterprise players like HP, IBM and the usual suspects." So this is so different from what Google currently does that Google is more likely to buy it than build it.
    • by simong (32944) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @12:40PM (#21969946) Homepage
      Google has enterprise search engines: the Google Search Appliance [google.com].
      • by smallpaul (65919)
        Yes, but Google's search appliances are nearly irrelevant to Google's business profitability. It's like saying that Google is "going after Microsoft" by releasing a flight simulator to compete with Microsoft Flight Simulator.

        Microsoft ALREADY has a bigger part of the Enterprise search market than Google just through Sharepoint.

    • by repvik (96666)
      I thought Google already did enterprise search with their rack units?
  • Fiscal 2006 revenue topped $162 million, according to FAST's annual report.


    They will pay 1.2 billion for that. That looks like quite some ROI to me.
  • How many times does MS have to throw money at an online business only to kill it or let it die from stupidity before they learn that whatever it is that makes them successful otherwise is POISON to what they think they can accomplish with any online business?

    Honestly, Redmond has started and stopped and shoveled money into a furnace for what 5, 6, 7 different 'strategic' online eSomething something acquisitions? They SUUUUUUCCCCKKKK at this.

    Microsoft is a company that's genetically averse to partnering with
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by the_B0fh (208483)
      And by not screwing up, do you mean that they're actually making money, or losing $6billion over the past few years also count as not screwing up?

      Damn, I *SO* majorly didn't screw up last year, only went over my budget by a couple of million.
      • by gelfling (6534)
        At least it's still operating and providing a service. I think there would be a real live peasants revolt with pitchforks and torches if they shut it down.
  • by Dynamoo (527749) * on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @12:36PM (#21969874) Homepage
    FAST used to own AlltheWeb [alltheweb.com] until they sold it in 2003. Up until that point, AlltheWeb was the only search engine that I'd seen that could rival Google for the quality of search results. Eventually, it ended up in the hands of Yahoo! who killed the engine off (as they did with AltaVista).

    What made AlltheWeb work was FAST's underlying search technology. What's surprising is that it has taken so long for someone to realise that FAST is more valuable that the AlltheWeb website was. So, if MS can ever get their search results to the quality that AlltheWeb used to provide, then this could well be a smart move. After all, doing it in-house has been pretty unsuccessful.

    • by Gkeeper80 (71079)
      Yahoo! didn't kill off AltaVista, FAST did. They bought the AltaVista search technology (which was a direct competitor to their enterprise search) and stopped selling licenses.
  • Bad Summary! (Score:5, Informative)

    by moosesocks (264553) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @12:47PM (#21970060) Homepage
    Microsoft's not going after Google. If anything, they're pre-empting them (but even that would be hypothetical, unless Microsoft's been participating in some sort of industrial espionage...)

    FAST is an enterprise search platform, which enables corporations to quickly search their entire repository of documents (assuming that they already have one). Given that SharePoint is increasingly being marketed as a large-scale document repository, this is a perfectly logical direction for Microsoft to take. FAST can be easily integrated into Microsoft's existing product portfolio, can easily be marketed (document storage and search is a hot area at the moment), and will greatly increase the value of their existing products. Even though the $1.2bn pricetag seems absurdly high, the purchase makes perfect sense from a business perspective.

    The only way in which Microsoft is "going after Google" is that Google could hypothetically choose to develop a similar product. The Google Search Appliance is somewhat similar, although it's not in widespread use, and fills a rather different niche than SharePoint. Unless Google wants to seriously focus on delivering an enterprise-grade version of Google Docs, and providing a heavy-grade search feature to match, the relevance of this story to Google is tenuous at best.

    Also, FAST isn't a recursive acronym. It's not even an acronym at all in English (or it'd be FSAT). Given that FAST is based in Norway, I'd guess that the phrase properly spells the acronym in Norwegian (although "fast" probably doesn't exist in the Norwegian lexicon, so I'm not even sure that's explanation either....)
    • by blamanj (253811)
      Microsoft's not going after Google.

      At least, not with this purchase. The parent is correct, though. The real target here is IBM.

      I'm sure Microsoft has realized that the glory days of the consumer market are gone, but the need for computing power in businesses will provide a vein to tap for quite a while.
  • by ccleve (1172415) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @01:04PM (#21970352)

    This acquisition is going to mean some chaos in my industry. Full disclosure: My company, Dieselpoint, is a Fast competitor.

    The enterprise search market is an industry unto itself, entirely different from web search. In this industry we sell search software for data inside a company, as opposed to general web search. In some ways, it's a much harder technical problem to solve than web search, because we deal with a much wider variety of data, security schemes, navigation rules, platforms, programming environments, etc.. Total industry size is between $1 and $2 billion, depending on how you count.

    Enterprise search is interesting to larger firms like Microsoft because it touches everything in the enterprise. Everybody wants easy-to-use search for everything -- the intranet, the email archive, the content management system, the ERP system, the HR system, the CRM system, the works. It's a hard thing to do well, and the company that does it is difficult to dislodge. Being the company's internal search engine is a good strategic position to be in.

    The industry is currently very fragmented, and no one has the upper hand. Fast was probably the most dominant competitor, though not the largest one. The largest one is Autonomy, but that has morphed more into a portfolio company with a lot of legacy products than a company focused on search. Fast was really the up-and-comer, and despite the financial difficulties, the one we had the hardest time selling against. Everyone else is secondary.

    The acquisition means some chaos in this industry, for one major reason: Fast is no longer a viable cross-platform solution, and won't be considered for many corporate deals. There's going to be a scramble to take over the mantle.

    Cross-platform capability is critical for corporate deals because, again, everybody wants to search everything. It's tough to do that if you only run on a Microsoft operating system. And while I'm sure Fast will continue to claim they'll support all platforms, who will believe them? This is Microsoft, after all. Non-Microsoft operating systems, Java, and the rest of the non-Microsoft-controlled technology will receive only short shrift in the future.

    So this is really big news for our little industry.

    Chris

  • I wonder how Lucene [apache.org] compares with FAST in terms of generic unstructured text searching, perhaps someone who knows more about FAST or Lucene can answer?
  • by treerex (743007) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @01:18PM (#21970562) Homepage
    Google isn't in the enterprise search space. Yes, they have the appliance, but that doesn't count. What FAST offers is a good product coupled with the professional services organization to integrate it into a business's workflow. The companies that Microsoft is now going head-to-head with are Endeca, Autonomy, Vivisimo, and their ilk.
  • Point of Order. (Score:3, Informative)

    by DaveV1.0 (203135) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @01:25PM (#21970646) Journal

    Fast Search And Transfer [Microsoft to use a self-recursive acronym?]


    FAST is not a self-recursive acronym. FAST stands for "FAst Search and Transfer". The "fast" in the expanded acronym is not the acronym FAST, it is the actual word fast, therefore it is not a self-recursive acronym.
  • If you want to "beat" Google - you have to go where google finds itself "too good" to go. In the beginning Google where an amazing search engine that gave us ALL what we where searching for , they don't do that anymore - because everyone (including YOU) trust them with everything you know -meaning - you will believe everything you search...but alas...I am afraid thats not quite the case. Google SENSORS a lot of data, they didn't do that in the beginning - hence why they became so popular in the first place,
  • by 6-tew (1037428) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @01:29PM (#21970714)

    "There's be gold in them thar Interwebs! Set sail fer Norway!"

    "But Cap'in, the ship! She be takin on water!"

    "Damn the water! Norway and GOLD! ."

    And so the Dread Pirates of Redmond sailed to Norway, but their ship, the M.S.N. Vista, sank on the return trip due to rot brought about by years of shoddy repair work and the weight of countless ill-advised upgrades and too much booty. A combination which had rendered it a lumbering hulk, no longer seaworthy.

    Show of hands, whose surprised Microsoft wants to go after Google?

    Second show of hands, who thinks Pirate metaphors should be used to illustrate everything?

    "Yarrrr!"

  • Read about MOSS - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SharePoint_Services#Microsoft_Office_SharePoint_Server [wikipedia.org]

    Read about Google - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google#Enterprise_products [wikipedia.org]

    Apart from the keyword "search", there's very few similarities at all. Microsoft Office SharePoint Server is in it's own genre it would appear.
  • Fast Search And Transfer [Microsoft to use a self-recursive acronym?)
    Great, now even their acronyms are susceptible to buffer overflows.
  • A recursive acronym refers to the acronym in the expression it stands for. Fast is a plain English word used with its standard meaning, it's not back-referring to itself. WINE is a recursive acronym because it stands for WINE Is Not an Emulator. The word WINE in the expression also refers to the acronym itself, as well as being part of it. The word fast is not referring to the acronym FAST, it's used as an adjective to describe the searching.

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