Friday, January 11, 2008

Microsoft's FAST Search and Transfer Acquisition Spells FAST Relief for Strategic Sales

Sometimes two distressful situations can combine to create relief, rare though that might be. Such seems to be the lucky break that both Microsoft and FAST Search and Transfer caught in the recent acquisition of FAST by Microsoft. FAST needed fast relief from crippling cash flow problems generated in part from a sales strategy that reached beyond their ability to deliver on ambitious promises. Microsoft on the other hand had failed to create any significant sales momentum behind its own enterprise search efforts, with players such as Google beginning to breathe down their necks more warmly with each passing day. So a mere USD 1.2 billion in cash works quite nicely to bring together two impressive partners that promise to dominate enterprise platforms for some time to come.

FAST's rapid growth over the past few years into an increasingly dominant position in enterprise search markets is just the ticket that Microsoft needs to position itself in increasingly competitive enterprise platform markets. With ever more content being consumed in enterprises via non-Microsoft platforms, domination requires a more agnostic approach to assembling on-demand content than Microsoft has been able to manage recently. FAST offers both solid enterprise search technology and an installed base of global corporate clients that Microsoft can leverage very effectively with the combination of FAST search capabilities to gather content and Microsoft's Sharepoint servers to store and aggregate content.

This last point is especially important for Microsoft's future revenues. With its Vista operating system rendered a ho-hum at best by most enterprise users and panned widely in consumer markets Microsoft needs to shift the center of its profits to platforms sy uch as search engines that are more central to what drives internal publishing in today's enterprises. Each page of search results can become in effect a purpose-built portal: in effect, the database is now, the content that's required to solve immediate business problems. Search technology such as that offered by FAST holds out the promise of search engines becoming the focal point for Microsoft's enterprise publishing strategy, offering Microsoft more opportunity to have offerings that scale effectively to both global and mid-sized corporations. That $1.2 billlion make look like relative pocket change today, but in terms of the market share secured and the future market positioning that will be required to counter slowing sales on its aging operating systems it's a major investment in securing Microsoft's future cash flow.
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