Though fierce rivals
in the word processing and office suite software markets, Justsystem,
Japan’s leading domestic PC software developer, and Microsoft have
agreed to cooperate on the development and marketing of an
enterprise-strength search engine/knowledge management tool.
The two companies will work together to develop a version of
ConceptBase, Justsystem’s natural-language document retrieval system,
that is fully compatible with Microsoft’s Exchange Server groupware.
The first fruit of the alliance will be ConceptBase Search for Exchange,
which Justsystem expects to ship by year end.
Efforts will then turn to creating Exchange-capable versions of the
ConceptBase Classifier and ConceptBase Summarizer add-on components as
well as ensuring full compliance with Microsoft Outlook and the Windows
2000 Server operating system.
While Microsoft Index Server has full-text search capability, it lacks
ConceptBase’s extensive range of capabilities.
“Exchange has two weak points,” admitted Microsoft Japan president
Makoto Naruke. “One is its search functionality, and the other is its
work flow functionality. Through this alliance, we will enhance
Exchange’s text search capabilities.”
The ConceptBase search engine combines advanced natural-language
processing with specialized statistical techniques to enable quick
access and analysis of massive amounts of Internet- and intranet-based
data, and can find relevant documents even if they do not contain the
actual words used in the query.
It can automatically rank “hits” in order of relevance, classify
documents based on content, and even analyze and summarize lengthy
documents for quick comprehension.
Justsystem developed ConceptBase in collaboration with
Pennsylvania-based Claritech, a firm in which it holds a majority
interest, by integrating Claritech’s high-performance CLARIT information
retrieval technology with its own natural-language technology, Japanese
input method, and automatic proofreading module.
Since December 1997, Justsystem has shipped some 50,000 ConceptBase
client packages to users in about 250 firms.
Its ConceptBase 20/1000 software suite received the SOFTIC (Japan
Software Information Center) 1998 “Software of the Year” award.
Although Justsystem sells a wide range of business and personal
computing applications, its flagship product has always been Ichitaro,
Microsoft Word’s perennial chief rival in the Japanese word processing
Justsystem’s fiscal year 1998 sales, however, plunged by nearly 25
percent year-on-year, to 16.25 billion yen (US$148 million).
This translated into a 4.67 billion yen (US$42.5 million) net loss, only
a slight improvement from the previous year’s 5.25 billion yen (US$47.7
Justsystem is counting on ConceptBase to diversify its product lineup
and rejuvenate its bottom line.
According to Kazunori Ukigawa, Justsystem founder, president, and CEO,
“We expect our search software, ConceptBase, to be a new core
Asked about his motive for cooperating with arch-rival Microsoft,
Ukigawa replied that Justsystem “has had a lot of user requests for an
Exchange-compatible version of ConceptBase.”
Justsystem hopes the alliance will help to make ConceptBase the de facto
standard information-retrieval tool for the enterprise market, while
Microsoft sees it as an opportunity to transform Exchange from its
current messsaging and collaboration focus into a comprehensive
knowledge management infrastructure.
“Cooperation is very important for the long-run in the field of
knowledge management,” declared Microsoft’s Naruke. “The technology of
each company alone is not sufficient to enable us to work effectively in
the age of the Internet.”
Both Naruke and Ukigawa agreed that their companies might “consider
further, long-term cooperation in the office product field” even though
they have competing products.