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Inktomi inks deals to boost data access

The company signs deals today with Network Computer Incorporated and Spyglass in an effort to bring corporate-level information searching systems to the home.

Inktomi signed deals today with Network Computer Incorporated and Spyglass in an effort to bring corporate-level information searching systems to the home.

Inktomi is offering its Web caching software along with software from Network Computer (NCI) and Spyglass to Internet service providers, which in turn will speed up the ability of devices such as handheld computers, set-top boxes, and cell phones to access and find information on the Web.

Inktomi made the announcements in conjunction with today's launch of its Traffic Server, Version 3.0, caching product.

Rather than speed up the connection to the devices themselves, Inktomi's Traffic Server software stores content on a server that is closer to the user, helping to reduce delays in receiving Web pages. Both NCI and Spyglass have software that reformats Web pages for viewing on information appliances, which often have screens that are smaller than a typical PC monitor, or don't feature color displays.

Inktomi made the announcement at the ISPCON Spring '99 trade show, a confab for Internet service providers. Paul Gauthier, chief technology officer of Inktomi, said his company is partnering with Spyglass and NCI to offer new revenue opportunities for ISPs from beyond the PC to "the millions of users of Internet appliances that are expected within the next two years."

Market researcher International Data Corporation has predicted that there will be more than 55 million handheld and notebook-style information-appliance devices by 2002.

Rather than just provide a raw bitstream to information appliances, service providers are all looking for ways to enhance their bottom line by adding services such as travel information that is combined with targeted sales information, analysts have said. That way, service providers may be able to take away some ad revenues from portal companies while also growing their subscription revenues.

NCI and Inktomi said the companies have established a "marketing alliance" for the Traffic Server network cache platform and NCI's Connect server software. The products are now compatible and there are plans to further integrate the two products. Spyglass and Inktomi will target wireless service providers, hosting providers, and ISPs, among others, with joint sales and marketing activities.

Inktomi joins an increasing array of competitors eager to provide the infrastructure to this emerging market. In April, for example, Yahoo struck a deal with a firm called Online Anywhere in an effort to extend its reach to handhelds and other devices such as WebTV. One of the first results of a similar effort from online service giant America Online is an Internet screen phone that can access email.

Other companies working on delivering Web pages to information appliances include Oracle--which has said it is working on a plan called "Project Panama"--AvantGo, and Proxinet, a start-up company that, like Inktomi, was spawned in the computer science department at the University of California at Berkeley.

Inktomi, which is best known for providing search engine technology to portals, has lately been trying to distinguish itself from the competition by providing an infrastructure for ecommerce to ISPs that would meld nicely with the ability to deliver these services to information appliances.

Last week, the company bought Impulse Buy Network in a $111.6 million stock-swap deal, and last year purchased another developer of online shopping technology called C2B. Technologies from both companies are being melded into Inktomi's "Shopping Engine" software, which is used to automate the process of finding products and pricing information on the Web.