Gets FAST

In what is becoming a busy week for search engines, Fast Search & Transfer (FAST) said
Dell will use its technology to help customers find information and place orders at its busy e-commerce site.

“The Internet is an important part of our business, so we constantly strive to deliver to our customers the best Web site possible,” Susan Sheskey, a vice president with the Austin PC maker, said of the decision.

Neither the duration, nor the value of the deal was disclosed.

Dell will use FAST’s recently upgraded software, which boasts linguistic features to match users’ intentions with results presented, automatic spell-checking and search keywords highlighted in all results descriptions.

It is designed for large query and data volumes for companies with real-time information needs. Dell’s Web site, certainly qualifies, tallying approximately 1 billion page requests per quarter.

For FAST, based in Oslo, Norway, with U.S. operations in Wellesley, Mass., the high-profile deal raises its name recognition as it vies with competitors such as Google in a competitive field.

Others users of FAST’s algorithmic technology include voice and data carrier AT&T, online job site CareerBuilder, IT giant IBM and portal player Terra Lycos.

FAST’s Dell deal comes at a time of fierce jockeying in the sector. On Tuesday, paid search leader Overture bought AltaVista for $140 million in cash and stock from CMGI (a far cry from what CMGI paid during the Internet boom).

With AltaVista’s algorithmic search technology, Overture can now pursue complete search deals, instead of just paid listings. This follows Google, which has sought to parlay its standing as the top search technology into a top spot in the paid listing space.

After entering the paid-search market last April, Google quickly established itself as a rival by luring away Overture partners EarthLink, Ask Jeeves and AOL.

FAST CEO John M. Lervik told that consolidation in the space was “expected” and the moves didn’t alter the company’s plans.

“FAST has already been transformed to a profitable organization with a strong balance sheet, thus FAST continues to be on a strategic track,” Lervik said.

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