In a $1.2bn purchase, Microsoft is offering to acquire the Norwegian enterprise search company Fast Search and Transfer (FAST).  This is being reviewed as a very positive move by the industry analysts as it more or less completes our end to end search offerings.  From free search all the way up to sophisticated niche search technology, we have it all now.

Good summary: http://www.networkworld.com/news/2008/010808-microsoft-bids-for-fast-search.html

David Tebbutt over at Freeform Dynamics says:

So what to make of the latest news, that Microsoft is to buy search company FAST? I am stunned. Truly. I take my hat off to Microsoft for this move. Forget about the staff meltdown that FAST has experienced recently, the fact is that this company has a great reputation and some solid clients. I'm sure it's not beyond the wit of Microsoft to win key developers back, if it wanted to ... Now, in a single stroke, the company puts itself in contention with these other major players. Assuming the deal goes through, it immediately removes one of the major stumbling blocks with large scale implementation of SharePoint Server—that of being able to draw information together from multiple hierarchical silos. If the integration with SharePoint is done well and if the missing bits of the social computing stack are added, then Microsoft will have leapfrogged the industry and incredibly strengthened its position.

Angela Ashenden at MWD is also positive but notes that integration of the customer base and FAST own recent acquisitions may be a challenge:

Clearly, as a best-of-breed solution, the FAST ESP software is more sophisticated, powerful and flexible than Microsoft's own capabilities, and its configurable, non-black box, approach to search has the potential to fit in well with Microsoft's products. However, FAST has a significant existing customer base which will need to be handled carefully to avoid giving too much advantage to Autonomy or smaller players such as Endeca, and it will be interesting to see whether the software remains a distinct business or becomes part of the Microsoft SharePoint Server solution

Sarah Burnett from Butler calls the acquisition:

a shrewd move that gives the software giant one of the world’s most advanced enterprise search software

Mike Davies from Ovum is quoted as saying

Microsoft was making a clever move and putting itself into the top league of enterprise search providers. “It is certain to make other large vendors look at the acquisition of high-end solution providers rather than develop their own [enterprise search software].”

Guy Creese of Burton Group sums up nicely how this completes our portfolio:

This is a huge coup for Microsoft in the enterprise search space. After futzing around for years, Microsoft finally started to get serious with search in SharePoint 2007. It's not perfect--clients have started to tell me the boundary conditions they're running into--but it's a lot better than search was in SharePoint 2003. If you split the search market into three sectors: (1) cheap and OK, (2) relatively inexpensive and an 80% solution, and (3) expensive and sophisticated, Microsoft is targeting tier two with SharePoint Search. Microsoft Search Server 2008 Express is its answer to tier one (see my previous blog post here), and the FAST acquisition is its answer to tier three.

Other reviews:

http://www.infoworld.com/article/08/01/08/Microsofts-bid-for-FAST-bolsters-enterprise-search_1.html

http://www.businessweek.com/technology/content/jan2008/tc2008018_832182.htm?chan=technology_technology+index+page_top+stories

http://www.computing.co.uk/vnunet/news/2206670/microsoft-offers-2bn-fast

http://www.forbes.com/markets/2008/01/08/microsoft-fast-google-markets-equity-cx_ll_0108markets06.html

Peter de Haas put together all the analyst reports we have distribution rights for which includes some recent search ones from Forrester and Gartner.