Norway to be key Microsoft search center

Norway to be key Microsoft search center
Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer, centre, looks on as the Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg speaks to the media after their talks in Oslo, Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2008.
OSLO, Norway (AP) - Microsoft Corp. will use its $1.2 billion purchase of Oslo company Fast Search and Transfer ASA to form key, Norway-based research and development centers for its business search systems, Chief Executive Steve Ballmer announced Tuesday.

Microsoft bought Fast in January in an all-cash deal to strengthen its enterprise search technology in effort to better compete with Oracle Corp. and IBM.

Microsoft's Ballmer said Fast's current staff of about 300 will be expanded to 350 people, with a main office in the capital city of Oslo and branches in the Norwegian towns of Trondheim and Tromsoe.

"Norway can be proud of building up an international competence center for business searches," Ballmer said after meeting Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg in Oslo to inform him of the plans. "Microsoft wants to be a significant player in that area."

Ballmer is on a European tour which includes stops in Norway, Denmark, Britain, France and Portugal.

Stoltenberg said the decision is "very positive because both research and business centers in Norway will work with a major international player like Microsoft."

Ten-year-old Fast, based in Oslo, is one of the biggest enterprise search firms. Its technology, like those of competitors Autonomy Corp. and Endeca Technologies Inc., helps workers inside a business locate data kept in a tangle of different types of files and databases.

Microsoft hopes its own Web search and advertising business, which lags far behind Google Inc.'s in terms of traffic and revenue, will grow from the acquisition of Fast.