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Ask Jeeves searches within for new CEO

The search engine company promotes its president, Steve Berkowitz, to the post of chief executive officer at time when the search industry is rife with competition.

In a search industry undergoing a resurgence and brimming with competition, search company Ask Jeeves on Monday promoted Steve Berkowitz from president to chief executive officer.

Berkowitz, who became president in July, will assume his new duties on Jan. 1. He will replace George "Skip" Battle, who will serve as executive chairman of the board of directors and replace co-founder Garrett Gruener as chairman. Gruener will remain on the board.

The management realignment comes as the sector is undergoing renewed interest and competition, spurred by the popularity and dominance of Google. Yahoo, for example, which completed its acquisition of search technology company Inktomi only in March, announced plans in July to acquire Overture Services. Microsoft, meanwhile, recently hired Overture's former chief technology officer in an effort to bolster its market presence with its MSN portal.

"Steve understands the search marketplace better than anyone I know," Battle said in a statement. "This understanding, combined with his operational record, his knowledge of consumer behavior and his strong rapport with Ask Jeeves' management team, makes Steve the ideal person to lead (the company)."

Berkowitz joined Ask Jeeves in 2001 as president of its Web properties division, which is the source of a majority of Ask Jeeves' revenue.

Shares of Ask Jeeves rose 61 cents, or about 3.2 percent, to $19.82 in morning trading.

The company has been busy redesigning its search service to enable people to obtain information on flights and local weather, and do math computations without having to leave the site. That feature is part of the company's Smart Answers tool set, which it unveiled in April.

Also earlier this year, Ask Jeeves sold its enterprise software division, in a move to focus efforts on its search business. The enterprise software unit provided search technology to corporations for their internal networks and Web sites.