Ask Jeeves Deepens Corporate Search Capabilities

By acquiring the technology assets of Octopus Software, the self-dubbed "Internet butler" is looking to tie its corporate search offerings into customer-oriented back-end systems.

InformationWeek Staff, Contributor

January 14, 2002

2 Min Read

In a move to offer more comprehensive services to corporate customers, Ask Jeeves Inc. Monday acquired the technology assets of struggling integrations software maker Octopus Software Inc. for an undisclosed amount of cash. By integrating Octopus' technology into its own natural-language search product, JeevesOne, Ask Jeeves intends to help businesses provide more detailed answers to questions by tying the search engines used by customers into back-end systems.

The company needed to provide access to a broader range of information, such as order status or account information stored in enterprise resource planning and customer-relationship management databases, says James Speer, product manager for Jeeves Solutions--the Ask Jeeves unit that sells to corporate customers. Speer says Octopus, which failed to raise additional venture capital funding, provides Ask Jeeves with the technology it needs to connect to core back-end systems, extract information, determine how it should be presented on a browser, and format it for delivery and display.

Until now, says Speer, Ask Jeeves has been focused on accessing unstructured data, such as that stored in HTML pages, Word documents, and Excel spreadsheets. "We go from being able to handle general information to the very specific information that resides in core business systems," he says. Speer expects to complete initial integration of Octopus' technology into JeevesOne by the end of the second quarter, with deeper integration to come in subsequent quarters.

Yankee Group analyst Rob Lancaster says it's important for search-engine-technology providers to widen the scope of the data they can integrate with as much as possible. "Businesses today prefer end-to-end solutions," says Lancaster. "They don't like to go to multiple vendors for their enterprise needs." To that extent, Lancaster says Ask Jeeves' acquisition is a logical move for a company looking to deepen its relationship with corporate customers.

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