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Microsoft's FAST Bid Raises Questions

Microsoft's $1.2 billion bid to buy data classification and search software supplier FAST has the industry buzzing with questions.

Some wonder why Microsoft is emphasizing Sharepoint as the vehicle of choice for FAST's capabilities. Others question FAST's position in the market and how that will change the shape of enterprise search once Microsoft takes over.

According to IDC figures, FAST was nearly tied with Google in second place for market share in 2006: Autonomy ranked first, with 15.2 percent of $1.4 billion in worldwide standalone software revenues (an overall figure that grew 20 to 25 percent in 2006); FAST ranked second with 8.9 percent; Google had 8.5 percent; and Endeca, a relative newcomer, ranked third, with a 3.8 percent share.

IDC analyst Sue Feldman says her firm hasn't released figures for the enterprise search market in 2007 -- despite the fact that FAST has publicly posted forecasts of $1.75 billion for last year's enterprise search market and $2.129 billion for 2008, quoting IDC. Feldman also warns that there are complexities that make the 2006 numbers an incomplete tale on their own.

"Market share in this space varies from one year to the next; the little ones edge up on the big ones, and some disappear altogether," she says. Verity and Zantaz, for instance, both disappeared as individual entities after being acquired by Autonomy for $500 million in 2005 and $375 million in 2007, respectively.

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