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Microsoft offers $1.2 billion for Fast

Software maker makes a grab for Norway's Fast Search & Transfer, a leader at the high end of the business search market.

Well, now we know what Microsoft had originally planned to announce on Monday.

Overnight, Microsoft announced it is offering $1.2 billion to buy Fast Search & Transfer, a leader in enterprise search. Microsoft had been working on the deal, which went by the code name "Ferrari" for a while now, but discussions had heated up in recent days.

The move shows the importance of business search as part of the overall search war with Google and other competitors.

Microsoft has previously made moves in business search, largely at the lower end of the market, using its SharePoint server product. Among its products is a planned free version for small businesses. That product, Microsoft Search Server 2008 Express, was announced in November, but is not due out until later this year.

The deal to buy Norway-based Fast still requires the approval of 90 percent of Fast shareholders, as well as a regulatory nod.

On Sunday, Microsoft issued a media advisory saying it would have a teleconference the next morning, but the company quickly rescinded that announcement. Having now won the backing of Fast's board, Microsoft plans to talk about the deal later Tuesday in a teleconference.