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4/27/2007
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Competition Between Fast And Autonomy Intensifies In Government Search Sector

Autonomy announced that it hired a Federal sales team away from rival Fast.

Just days after Fast Search & Transfer reported it will acquire key assets of Convera, the fierce competition in the U.S. government search market was underscored when Autonomy Corporation announced that it had hired a Convera Federal sales team away from Fast.

In an e-mail Friday, Fast confirmed that two salespeople have left for Autonomy. "If two people make a team, then Autonomy is correct," a Fast spokesperson said. "However, Convera has more than two salespeople... there are ample sales resources available to sell Fast and to serve the needs of (Fast's government customers.)"

The government search market is expanding rapidly and search providers are beefing up their sales and service operations to gain market share in the segment.

Convera's RetrievalWare has had a strong position in the government market, but Fast saw an opening to gain market share because it believes its search platform offers advanced scalability technology as well as the capability of linking to multiple databases.

U.K.-based Autonomy noted that the departing Convera employees -- there were five in all, including non-sales workers -- hold valuable federal clearances that enable them to sell to the U.S. government community. The departing employees joining Autonomy include Convera's former vice president of sales and operations and the firm's vice president of product engineering.

Both Autonomy and Fast already have U.S. government customers -- Fast has business with the Defense and Agriculture Departments while Autonomy has contracts with the Energy and Homeland Security Departments, as well as with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Helen Mitchell, chairman of the former Convera RetrievalWare Federal User Group, has supported Fast's takeover of the RetrievalWare's government users. In a statement, she said: "Fast executives have made themselves accessible to us and have been proactive in reaching out to address our questions regarding the acquisition and to solicit our input toward the future of the RetrievalWare products."

Fast's $23 million acquisition of Convera is scheduled to close in the current quarter.

Autonomy executives were not immediately available for further comment.

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