On January 3, 2008, we emphasized the strategic importance of focusing on enterprise search in 2008 to improve the customer experience you provide. Microsoft seems to agree. On January 7th, Microsoft offered to buy Norwegian enterprise search provider FAST Search and Transfer for $1.2 billion. Here’s Sue Aldrich’s analysis of this latest move:
This is unquestionably good news for both FAST and for Microsoft. FAST had been a juggernaut of growth: in 2005 it was poised to overtake Autonomy, the other large search-focused ISV. But in 2006 FAST faltered, seemed to lose track of its identity, grasped at a series of strategies, and today is half the size of Autonomy. Microsoft will have no such strategic collywobbles.
Microsoft gains some strategic assets with FAST. Microsoft, until very recently, had only the most basic of search capability incorporated in its products. It’s difficult to comprehend that in so many years of investment Microsoft should have produced so little, but there you have it. In the past month, Microsoft has released its first advanced search engine, a first release that will take some years to catch up to the technology already incorporated in FAST’s Enterprise Search Platform (ESP).1 With the addition of this technology, Microsoft could actually compete in the search market. Of course, before Microsoft will do that, Microsoft will have to integrate ESP into Microsoft’s software platforms, marketing strategy, and partner programs. This will take some time: Microsoft has leapfrogged its technical sophistication, but perhaps landed in mud to its hips, and there is a great deal of effort to extricate itself and get cleaned up.