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Ask Jeeves soars on Microsoft pact

Shares of Ask Jeeves Inc. (Nasdaq: ASKJ) jumped 20 percent after the online butler struck a new deal with Microsoft to answer support questions for Windows 98.

In early trading, Ask Jeeves soared 9 11/16 to 60 1/8. The company said Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) will expand its use of the corporate question-answering service on its Personal Online Support site for Windows 98.

Ask Jeeves beat estimates in its second quarter, the first quarter it has reported as a public company.

The deal fulfills Ask Jeeve's plan to expand its corporate services. President and CEO Rob Wrubel said that AskJeeves' corporate customers were "looking for great new enhancements with what they can do to help them improve their relationships with online customers," in an interview with ZDII last July.

"Our relationship with companies such as Microsoft allows us to continue to build a vast network of questions and answers that is serving as an intuitive and effective way to connect people to relevant information, products and services on the Web," said Wrubel in Monday's press release.

Ask Jeeves' corporate customers currently include Compaq Computer, Dell Computer, Iomega Corporation, Micron Electronics, Toshiba Corporation, Datek Online, E*TRADE, Office Depot, Inc., Oxygen Media, WebTV Networks, and Williams-Sonoma.