Ask Jeeves Adds Desktop Search With Tukaroo Buy

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Ask Jeeves bolstered its search technology with yesterday's purchase of a small technology company that lets users search their computer files.


The Emeryville, CA, search engine acquired Tukaroo, a San Jose, CA, startup founded in March 2003. Tukaroo makes software that gives users desktop search capability covering the hard drive, local network and Internet. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.


With the acquisition, Ask Jeeves joins other search companies in seeking ways onto users' computers. Microsoft is preparing an all-in-one search capability in the release of the new version of its Windows operating system in 2006. Google also is reportedly working on a desktop search capability called Puffin. In March, Terra Lycos released HotBot Desktop, which searches hard drives and the Web.


"Each of the portals is developing their own hooks into the operating system to blur the lines between where the Net stops and your computer starts," said Kevin Lee, CEO of Did-it.com, a New York search marketing firm.


Microsoft's dominance in the operating system market did not mean its new search capability would erase all others, said Jim Lanzone, vice president of product management at Ask Jeeves.


"Just as you can't force someone to watch 'Matlock,' you can't force someone to type into a search engine," he said. "We believe search is going to be an area where usage is governed by consumer choice. There are going to be different flavors of search."


Ask Jeeves has continued to branch out from its flagship Ask.com search site. The company recently closed the acquisition of Interactive Search Holdings, giving it five new search properties. ISH also offers desktop software applications such as SmileyCentral.com and FunWebProducts.com, which come bundled with a search toolbar.


Lanzone said Ask Jeeves did not have definitive plans for how Tukaroo's technology would apply to advertising, only that it would complement the company's Teoma Web search technology.


"Our strategy is to continue to invest in technology, products and services that are best in class in the information retrieval space," he said.


On Tuesday, Ask Jeeves registered to sell up to $400 million of shares and securities that it could use for future acquisitions. At an investment conference yesterday, chief financial officer Steve Sordello downplayed possible large acquisitions, like the Lycos portal.


"We are hesitant to do anything of a large scale," he said.


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