Europeans Search for Answer to Google

European leaders’ call for European competition to U.S. search and software giants such as Google, MSN and Yahoo is now being answered by some of the continent’s largest media and technology companies, which are reportedly collaborating on a multinational, multimedia search project.

French President Jacques Chirac recently referred to the need for such an effort in a speech, calling a software and technology initiative by France, Germany and other European nations paramount to competing on a global scale.

He suggested a search engine, being headed by European technology company Thomson and possibly including media giant Bertelsmann, would blend public and private data. Industry observers indicated the effort may represent a significant, new multimedia search technology.

“From a technical perspective of what could, or could not happen, it’s coming out of Thomson, which is the largest company in the world in terms of broadcast equipment and related products,” Frost & Sullivan senior analyst Mukul Krishna told TechNewsWorld. “They have some very cool stuff when it comes to video search. There’s a good possibility they’re using Thomson, and if they have it, it would be really, really cool.”

Avoiding Announcement Wars

Krishna said despite the potential for the project, dubbed “Quaero,” Latin for “I search,” or “I seek,” Thomson and other European companies involved are trying to avoid the competing announcements and one-upmanship-style public relations typically seen from U.S. leaders Google, MSN and Yahoo.

“Right now, the U.S. guys are making all these announcements — at times, I think, prematurely — just to get buzz,” he said. “Not that they won’t do it, but nobody’s talking about business plans. Thomson is looking to avoid all of that.”

Krishna added Thomson has a number of clients in the U.S. and is not looking to “rub anyone the wrong way.”

In Search of Buzz

Although there have been a number of public reports about Quaero, the industry buzz about the initiative has been minimal, so far, confirmed Basex CEO and chief analyst Jonathan Spira.

“For someone who listens to that buzz, I haven’t heard too much,” he told TechNewsWorld.

Still, Spira said a European multimedia search engine, which he viewed as an effort to make a less U.S.-centric search program, would be a good thing.

“I think you have to applaud efforts to make local knowledge more available,” he said.

Un-American Audience

Spira added that while U.S. search and software giants such as Google and Yahoo have been aided by the U.S. and English language-centered beginnings of the Internet, there are many users who are not interested in those results.

“What people are aiming at is the vast non-English speaking [user] population,” he said.

The analyst added, however, that foreign language versions of Google, for example, may serve the non-English audience quite sufficiently.

Baby Steps by Big Brands

Frost & Sullivan’s Krishna reiterated the cautious approach for Quaero, predicting Thomson and other backers are going to come to market in a very “studied and conservative fashion.”

Still, the analyst said the product presented by the likes of European players such as Thomson and Bertelsmann is a formidable one for the market.

“If they ever plan to come to market, they will have a very, very unique value proposition,” he said. “They’ve got a lot of companies scared, particularly in the broadcast space.”

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