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AltaVista rebuilds its engine

AltaVista Internet Software rolls out a new souped-up search engine technology designed for corporate users.

AltaVista Internet Software today rolled out a new souped-up search engine technology designed for corporate users.

While the public AltaVista engine can handle only HTML Web pages and text searches, the corporate product family will cast its net much further to index some 200 file formats. The three-products that comprise the "eXtension" family can ferret out information stored behind firewalls on corporate intranets and extranets and sort through a raft of commonly used desktop file formats such as Microsoft's Office suite, Adobe PDF multimedia files, and search information residing on floppy disks.

The new products can also index the email stores of products such as Netscape Navigator mail and Microsoft Internet Explorer mail, the company said.

Heather Ashton, an analyst with Hurwitz Group has been using the intranets tool recently and gave it high marks.

"I can search my email and all the documents on my hard drive at once," she said. Ashton said the engine allows people to use data more efficiently by performing advanced searches that bring up a smaller number of responses than the average Internet search engine.

Yet, Ashton noted AltaVista is likely to seeing some competition from other index makers, such as Verity, and other developers that roll out software to manage intranet data.

"Intranet search software is the next level as far as productivity tools go for the intranet," Ashton said.

The Net software unit of Digital Equipment (DEC) based the corporate product family on core technology developed for the company's popular AltaVista Internet search engine.

The new addition to the family is AltaVista Search Workgroup eXtension 97, which provides search and retrieval of information stored in NT, Novell, LAN Manager, and other file servers. The company has also enhanced its AltaVista Search Intranet eXtension 97 and AltaVista Search Personal eXtension 97 software. The two existing products were introduced last year.

The company has reissued the AltaVista Search Developer's Kit for Windows NT platforms. It also added support for Sun Microsystems' Solaris platform for the entire family of products.

AltaVista today also announced a new business partner relationship with Linguistics Technology. The company has developed add-on technology that allows users to extend the reach of AltaVista's products to one-shot searches across data stored in client-server applications, data marts, data warehouses, and databases, instead of having to search databases separately.

Linguistics has two products that work with the AltaVista engine. They are Expos i, a product that lets database administrators publish HTML Web pages incorporating metadata and other database information, and English Wizard Web/Server. The English Wizard product translates queries into SQL language for searching and then converts the results back into English so users can read the results. It can also turn responses into HTML for viewing on the Web with a browser, the company said.

AltaVista wants to highlight the price tag. Unlike the free Web search engine, companies will have to pay for the new service. Intranet eXtension 97 server software priced from $15,995 to $65,999, while an unlimited user license is an additional $34,000. The Personal eXtension 97 is priced at $29.95 for a single user, and the developer's kit run from $49,999 to $99,999, depending on platform. AltaVista Search Workgroup eXtension 97 pricing will be announced in July when the product ships, the company said.