Autonomy, the fast-growing British intelligent software company, yesterday launched a new product which it claimed would sound the death knell for the traditional internet search engine.
As part of a profile-raising exercise before its planned Nasdaq flotation, the Easdaq-listed company announced plans for Kenjin, a free software product expected to drive its core corporate business.
From Friday internet users will be able to download the software free from www.kenjin.com It promises to deliver background information, both from the web and their own PC, for users preparing documents on a given theme.
Chief executive Mike Lynch's assessment of the product was more circumspect than his public relations company's claim that "Kenjin will transform the way we use PCs and in particular the internet. It said: "Search engines like Yahoo! are consigned to the dustbin."
Mr Lynch said: "Kenjin does not push loads of irrelevant rubbish. We think its going to have a significant effect in driving our business forward."
Kenjin is based on technology that can understand and "contextualise" information. It is a scaled down version of a range of intelligent software that increased Autonomy's share price thirtyfold last year. The technology analyses text for meaning, rather than just looking for keywords, and then links it to other relevant documents. The information is then pushed to the user's screen .
Mr Lynch said several international partners are being lined up to help roll out the software. Because it is free and does not carry an installation charge, Autonomy will generate revenues through advertising.
However, Beeson Gregory analyst David Johnson said: "As a way of raising profile prior to the IPO on Nasdaq this is very clever. It's too early to say what revenues Kenjin will generate on its own but it will certainly put the package in front of more potential corporate partners."
Blue-chips like the BBC, Merrill Lynch and British Telecommunications use Autonomy products but the company is looking to broaden its customer base to a mass market.
Mr Johnson played down the threat to search engines like Yahoo!, Lycos and Ask Jeeves. "People visit sites like Yahoo! because they know their way round it and know what they are looking for," he said. "I don't think Kenjin will destroy their business model. It will be of more use to people who want information to help them to complete a particular task and need information brought to them."
Easdaq dealers were impressed though. Autonomy closed up $15 at $196, valuing the company at about $7.5bn.