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Firm sharpens focus in Net house-hunting tours

One of Europe's largest real estate service providers says it will use imaging tools from Canada-based MGI Software to improve online house-hunting.

Hunting for a French villa?

Immo-by-tel, one of Europe's largest real estate service providers, today said it will use imaging tools from MGI Software to improve online house-hunting.

Paris-based Immo-by-tel will use MGI Zoom Server software for delivering online real estate virtual tours with the ability to hone in on fine details, such as moldings or bathroom faucets.

The agreement comes as Internet e-commerce booms on the Continent, fueled in part by the growing use of mobile devices to access the Net and increased reliance on application service providers (ASPs) to serve up content. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

MGI's Zoom Server software allows e-commerce operations to build a catalog of high-quality images that buyers can zoom in on for finer detail or pull out for a panoramic view.

Other Zoom Server customers include Bloomingdale's, the Gap and Nine West.

MGI, which is best known for its consumer photo- and video-editing software, has been quietly inking business-to-business consumer e-commerce deals. In February, for example, the Ottawa-based company and NDS Group unveiled photo-processing services over digital televisions and set-top boxes.

ASPs typically allow businesses to off-load their technology needs, including staff and equipment, for a monthly fee that covers the rental of expensive software applications that small businesses couldn't otherwise afford.

A recent study by Cahners-In-Stat found that in the United States, service providers are expected to spend $1 billion on new technology this year.

Immo-by-tel will be offering application services to France-based realtors Bourdais, Simco and Loiselet Daigremont, among others.

Demand for e-business services is booming in Europe, according to market researcher International Data Corp. The segment is expected to grow to $28.6 billion in 2004, up from $4.2 billion last year.

Europe's greater acceptance of online buying, supported by a more mature Web-enabled cellular phone market, is helping to shift Internet commerce spending. While worldwide online spending is expected to reach $1.6 trillion in 2003, U.S. e-commerce spending will plunge to 48 percent from 62 percent, with much of the difference going to Europe, according to IDC.