Thursday, September 25, 2003 - Amazon Plans Search Service To Drive Sales - Amazon Plans Search Service To Drive Sales " Inc. has quietly established a beachhead in Silicon Valley to develop its own Web-search technology, a plan that could pit it more directly against Google Inc. and Yahoo Inc. in an emerging battle over who controls the major paths to online merchants.
Amazon's new foray is called A9, a subsidiary it has set up in Northern California to tap into Silicon Valley's large pool of software engineers. The region is home to Yahoo, Google and lesser search companies and is the de facto world center of Web-search technology.
Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos has charged the new unit with developing software that will help keep the company competitive as online shopping habits evolve. Increasingly, Web shoppers buy products through retailers they found by conducting Web searches, rather than by going directly to retailers' sites.
In recent weeks, Amazon has been interviewing candidates for about 30 positions at A9 and has made a number of hires. Udi Manber, a computer scientist and former Yahoo executive whom Amazon hired last year, is the president of A9 and is overseeing the recruitment efforts.
A9 is wholly owned by Seattle-based Amazon but will operate as a separate company, says Alison Diboll, an A9 spokeswoman. Amazon plans to market the A9 technology to other Web sites as well as use it itself. "The whole business objective is to create the best e-commerce search technology out there," says Ms. Diboll. "We will start up in October with about 30 people and expect to grow significantly over time."
A9 says its software will be aimed specifically at online shoppers, not users who want to perform general search requests for things such as sports statistics or news. A9 declined to provide many details on how its technology will work, but said it will present products found on Amazon in an "egalitarian" fashion with products found on other Web sites."
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