Microsoft Adds Lookout to Its Search

As it ramps up its search offerings, Microsoft has acquired personal search tool maker Lookout Software. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Lookout tool
allows users to perform a “fast” search for local data, files and e-mail from within Microsoft Outlook 2003. Outlook’s own search has often been criticized by users as being somewhat slow, an area where Lookout excels.

“Lookout has developed an innovative technology for searching e-mail that is aligned with our own MSN Search efforts,” said Yusuf Mehdi, corporate vice president of MSN, in a statement. “Our vision is to take search beyond today’s basic Internet search services to deliver direct answers to people’s questions, and help them find information from a broad range of sources. We are thrilled to add the expertise of the Lookout team to our existing team of search experts.”

Lookout has been offered for free, which has helped its popularity. But the free “preview” was going to end when it became commercially available for a price range of between $19.95 and $29.95, depending on volume licensing.

“Our goal was to build simple, high-quality tools that empower people to spend less time processing e-mail,” Lookout co-founder Eric Hahn said. Hahn will stay with Lookout until the acquisition transition is complete. The other co-founder of Lookout, Mike Belshe, will become a full-time employee on the MSN Search team.

“With Microsoft’s focus in the search arena, we feel this is a great opportunity to expand on the technology we have built in a way that will really help consumers,” Belshe said. “MSN’s own cutting-edge technology combined with Lookout and other upcoming products is going to fundamentally change this industry in a very positive way.”

Microsoft characterized the acquisition as part of its recently announced revitalized $100 million MSN search effort. The broad vision of that effort is to provide more advanced search services from a variety of sources.

Lookout is not the only company that has targeted the Outlook interface as a place for search. Contact management vendor Plaxo’s recently released 2.0 version also integrates with Outlook, and provides Yahoo! search from inside of Microsoft’s e-mail client.

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