Eurozone initiative to challenge US internet technology dominance

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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Quaero is being termed eurozone's response to the US-based internet search giants such as Google, Yahoo and MSN. The project includes the French and German governments along with a host of European technology companies such as Thomson, France Telecom and Deutsche Telekom. It is scheduled to be submitted to France's Agency of Industrial Innovation later this month. The agency which has a budget of €2 billion ($2.41 billion) hasn't specified how much of this money will be spent on Quaero.

President Jacques Chirac announced the launch of Quaero during the French-German ministerial conference in April of last year. It is the latest in a series of initiatives by the Europeans to compete with US dominance in technology. Europe launched the Galileo satellite navigation system last month aimed at rivaling a similar system already available in the US. French broadcasters are also planning an international television network, CFII aimed at presenting the French view on world events. The network is slated to begin broadcasting in French and English to Europe, the Middle East and Africa sometime next year.

Designers hope that Quaero will be the world's most advanced multimedia search engine to locate and translate video and audio over the internet. A pretty ambitious goal even by the admission of people involved "Yes, it's highly ambitious," said Jean-Luc Moullet, who oversees the Quaero project at Thomson. "There's nothing to compare it to."

However details remain scant and mostly shrouded in secrecy. None of the key players has commented on cost and last week, Thomson, removed access to the page on its corporate web site devoted to Quaero and instructed its executives not to give any interviews for the project.

Most industry experts remain skeptical and fear that the program would be costly and unwieldy to administer and would produce no tangible commercial advances. "I'm not too confident that Quaero will be able to produce anything that the private sector isn't already offering or will develop on its own in the future," said John Lervik, chief executive of Fast Search & Transfer, a Norwegian software company that provides search solutions to businesses for data stored on their corporate networks.