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Amazon hires algorithm guru

The online retailer lures a former chief scientist at Yahoo to become its chief algorithms officer, just as the holiday-shopping season is beginning.

Amazon.com has named a former chief scientist at Yahoo as its chief algorithms officer.

Udi Manber, who also will become a vice president at the online retailer, worked at Yahoo for four years and previously taught computer science at the University of Wisconsin and the University of Arizona. Manber, who has focused on search technology and algorithms, is the author of "Introduction to Algorithms--A Creative Approach."

"Algorithms are what make our site run, (and) such a unique place to shop. It's through algorithms that we're able to do things like make recommendations and tell you what customers who bought this item also bought," said Amazon spokeswoman Patty Smith.

Manber, 48, will report to Chief Information Officer Rick Dalzell.

The appointment comes as Amazon heads into the holiday season, a key time for the online retailer. Jeff Wilke, the company's head of worldwide operations, held a conference call with analysts Thursday to brief them on preparations for the upcoming season.

The company has taken several steps to prepare for the onslaught, setting up temporary warehouses and distribution centers, hiring temporary and seasonal workers, and making improvements to operational efficiencies, Wilke said.

Amazon also expects to see an uptick in sales from the new online apparel store it launched this week. The site allows customers to buy products from retailers such as Nordstrom, Eddie Bauer, Foot Locker and The Gap.

The retailers handle all fulfillment issues, while Amazon covers the order processing. Amazon's cut of the sales will not likely be very big, but the boost in traffic could spur cross-selling and higher purchase frequency, analysts said.

"This brings Amazon another step closer to its vision of becoming 'the place to find and discover anything you want to buy online.' The increased selection, brand and convenience leverages the company's existing assets to improve the value proposition of shopping online at Amazon," Goldman Sachs analyst Anthony Noto wrote in a research note.