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Microsoft Signs Blinkx to Video Search

UPDATED: A pact between video search company Blinkx and Microsoft brings into sharp focus the growing importance of managing the mountain of online content.

The agreement comes as Internet giant Google considers whether to buy popular video site YouTube for a reported $1.6 billion and as portals look to video as the next wave of Internet content.

Blinkx and Microsoft plan to announce Tuesday that Blinx video search technology, already adopted by Lycos and others, will form the backbone for users searching for video on portions of MSN and Live.com, according to those familiar with the signed, but not yet announced, deal.

While Blinkx was not immediately available for comment, a Microsoft spokesperson downplayed the agreement.

The agreement allows Microsoft's multimedia and online products to "have the option to integrate Blinkx services if their customers request such a service," a spokesperson told internetnews.com.

For the moment, however, "there are no firm plans to integrate," according to the Microsoft spokesperson.

The technology used by Blinkx differs from that used to search much of the Internet. Rather than scanning text, the San Francisco company employs voice recognition to search the audio portion of videos.

Suranga Chandratillake, Blinkx founder, described the search technology as "contextual phonetics," combining text used to describe a video clip with audio.

This deal differs from previous search agreements. Blinkx opted to license its search technology in exchange for an undetermined licensing fee based on the number of users of Microsoft video searches.

While possibly not as lucrative as receiving a cut of advertising revenue, the agreement could provide something more valuable to Blinkx: exposure.

"The Microsoft deal is great for them -- Blinkx hasn't built a brand," JupiterKagan analyst Joe Laszlo said.

In August, Blinkx inked an agreement with Lycos. Blinkx called video search "a side-feature" for traditional search companies, a view with which Laszlo agreed.

"The big portals will have video search in the future," Laszlo said.

The move could be accelerated if Google buys video powerhouse YouTube. Google's own video search, now limited to its user-submitted Google Video site, could adopt outside search technology if the Internet company expands.

AOL, when it announced its own AOL Video service, followed a similar path when it purchased Truveo and SingingFish to power its search.

AOL's video search doesn't include speech recognition, such as that Blinkx provides, Todd Chanko, media analyst with JupiterKagan, said. Relying on only text introduces human error and bias, according to the analyst.

Web searches are pretty much a free-for-all, and video searching will "help the viewer corral all this content," he said.