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AltaVista gets personal with Yodlee alliance

The portal plans to team with the Internet start-up in a deal that promises to raise the stakes in personalized Web services.

AltaVista plans to announce tomorrow that it will team with Internet start-up Yodlee in a deal that promises to raise the stakes in personalized Web services.

The AltaVista deal is one of 17 partnerships Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Yodlee will unveil that involve its Web Personalization Platform, which allows consumers to access all of their online personal account information through a single, customized Web page. Other major partners will include Intuit and Sabre Business Travel Solutions.

"Yodlee's Personalization Platform offers users instant access to relevant, personal information in a highly secure user interface," Ross Levinsohn, vice president and general manager of new media for AltaVista, said in a statement.

Other Yodlee partners could not immediately be reached for comment. An Intuit spokeswoman declined to comment.

The Yodlee deal comes as Palo Alto, Calif.-based AltaVista revs up a major push to compete with portal leaders Yahoo and America Online, each of which offers users a menu of basic customization features.

Last month, the company filed to raise $300 million in an initial public offering. Also in December, AltaVista beefed up its home-page building services in a deal with Homestead and announced plans to expand internationally with a Pan-European portal.

While the Yodlee deal will give AltaVista far more robust personalization capabilities, it is unlikely to significantly alter the playing field in the portal market, analysts said.

But it does signal a growing opportunity for companies such as Yodlee that offer people more control over their Web interfaces--a wave that is still cresting, according to analysts, who noted that Yodlee has few direct competitors.

"Yodlee is one of two leading firms in terms of pulling together account information," said Brook Newcomb, a senior analyst with market research firm Forrester Research, who added that VerticalOne is the other.

VerticalOne, which launched in August, offers one-stop online account access. It has signed deals with several partners, including USWeb and BellSouth.

Both Yodlee and VerticalOne are betting that consumers will put aside security fears and transfer tasks such as money management and bill paying to the Web.

Privately held Yodlee was formed in February with a $2 million "angel" round of financing from private investors, including the founders of Hotmail, Exodus and Junglee. It also received $16 million in a first round of financing this summer from venture firms Sequoia Capital and Accel Partners.

In the fall, the company launched a beta, or test, version of its software, which allows users to input passwords and user IDs to aggregate summaries of personal information from bank accounts, credit cards, travel services and so on. In addition to offering its services through co-branding deals with Web partners, Yodlee will offer remote access to its products through its wireless Yodlee2Go service.

Newcomb said that Yodlee and VerticalOne are well-positioned to exploit a lack of cooperation among financial services companies, which have been slow to adopt data-sharing standards or to allow competitors to aggregate their customers' account information. Instead, they have been more willing to partner with portals. Bank of America, for example, offers its California customers account services through Yahoo, he said.

"Don't expect Bank of America to offer Yahoo-style services at Wells Fargo's Web site," he added.

According to Yodlee co-founder Sukhinder Singh, the company solves the compatibility problem.

"Consumers want a way to manage all their personalized content and activities from one trusted Web site, but until now, a common platform had not been available," she said in a statement.

Though Newcomb said Yodlee's future is bright in the near term, he added that the company could face a problem down the road, when financial services companies are finally forced to cooperate.

"This process will be driven by consumers, who will eventually demand access to information where they want it," he said.