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Franco-German venture to take off to create a global search engine

Franco-German venture to take off to create a global search engine

FRANKFURT: German media company Bertelsmann AG is actively toying with the idea of leading the German side to a proposed Franco-German project to create a global search engine to counter the influence of U.S.-dominated Google and Yahoo, as envisioned by French president Jacques Chirac.

The project, called Quaero, was mooted by Chirac in his new year message as a Europe’s response to the U.S. challenge. The French side is known to have committed 150 million euros for the project through the new Agency for Industrial Innovation, set up on the recommendation of Jean-Louis Beffa, chairman of glass and ceramic group, Saint-Gobain. Thomson, the media services and equipment group, is expected to lead the French side, along with the French National Centre for Scientific Research.

In Germany, Beffa’s counterpart is said to be Heinrich von Pierer, chairman of Siemens, who is close to Angela Merkel, the German chancellor.

A unit of Bertelsmann’s service division Arvato, Empolis GmbH, is evaluating whether cooperation is in the interests of the company. According to sources, the company is close to signing up as Germany’s official leader in the project early this week. Guetersloh, Germany-based Bertelsmann is Europe’s largest media company.

Chirac had outlined the proposal as one based on public and private resources in France and Germany with a view to close the gap in research and development between Europe and the U.S. Quaero, means “I search” in Latin.

The proposal envisages creation of a search engine for the general public that can sort through audio, images and video as well as text. Search engines now rely on written descriptions of audio, images and video, which could cause inaccurate results. The system will have technical capabilities to transcribe audio automatically as well as image and video recognition.

It is reported that Thomson would want to make use of Quaero to offer an in-built search facility on the set-top boxes it makes, plus supplying applications to its television and film company clients. Bertelsmann too would be wanting to create similar applications.

France Telecom and Deutsche Telekom are members of the consortium formed for the project.

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