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Grabbing the tiger tails

The IT industry’s affair with India deepened as Oracle took control of I-Flex Solutions, the Mumbai-based developer of the world’s most popular bank software, for almost $1bn in the largest foreign takeover of an Indian technology company. Oracle spent $593m to acquire Citigroup’s 41 per cent stake in the company and a further $316m to buy another 20 per cent of I-Flex.

India’s Business Standard said the deal would help take I-Flex to new heights, as Oracle already had relationships with most of the world’s biggest banks, while its new acquisition had been limited by its relationship with Citigroup.

At the same time PC maker Dell also was also focusing on one of the new tiger economies - but as a market rather than a producer. Dell said it wants to double its market share in China to take 20 per cent of sales in the booming economy’s computer market.

While it is already gaining market share there, Dell is third-ranked behind Lenovo, which has 25 per cent of the market after buying IBM’s PC business early this year, and fellow Chinese PC company Founder. In addition IDC analyst Brian Ma pointed out that consolidation in the Chinese PC market is bringing increasing pressure on margins and computer prices fell by 12 per cent last year.


Microsoft appoints third-in-command

Microsoft appointed a new chief operating officer to take what will effectively be the third-most senior role at the company, behind chairman Bill Gates and chief executive Steve Ballmer.

Forty-year-old Kevin Turner, who had previously run the Sam’s Club division at retailer Wal-Mart, is the second high-level appointment by Microsoft this year from outside the technology industry. Earlier this year Chris Liddell was recruited from International Paper to be Microsoft’s chief financial officer.

It is the first time in almost three years that Microsoft has had a chief operating officer after the last person in the job, Rick Belluzzo, left less than a year into the role. Belluzzo admitted to having other aspirations and told Computerworld at the time of his departure that the re-organization of the business indicated that he simply wasn’t needed. But Microsoft watchers at the time voiced a belief that there “wasn’t room for a number three” at the company, as Directions on Microsoft analyst Matt Rosoff told CNET back in 2002.

Mozilla’s Firefox sparks Browser War memories

August 9 marks the 10th anniversary of Netscape’s IPO, which many consider to be the launch date of the dotcom era of countless optimistic listings and rollercoaster technology stocks. While the stockmarket bubble it created is just a sad memory for those who were burnt, the growth of internet use continues apace, with the one-billionth user predicted to log onto the internet for the first time around mid-August.

Ironically, the Netscape anniversary almost coincided with an announcement from Mozilla, the non-profit organisation behind the web browser Firefox, that it would set up a commercial unit to boost partnerships and marketing of the software.

Firefox’s success in recent months has seen Microsoft’s market share begin to fall for the first time since it beat Netscape into submission several years ago. “Hippie” Mozilla, as The Register called it, was going back to work for the Man, and the consensus was that the legendary ‘Browser Wars’ of the late 1990s were set to begin all over again.


Search industry ups the pace

Meanwhile movement in the web search industry continued at the breakneck pace reminiscent of the heady dotcom days. The activity is mostly around search marketing - the text-only advertisements that are placed alongside relevant search results and have quickly snowballed into a sizeable industry.

First AskJeeves, the search challenger that was recently bought by Barry Diller’s InterActiveCorp (IAC), decided to ditch Google and go it alone on contextual advertising. Then in another swipe at search king Google, Yahoo said it would launch an advertising network for the blogosphere, CNet reported. Yahoo already owns Overture, the pioneer of placing text-based advertisements next to relevant search results. Search marketing, as it is known, has become a huge industry and is the main revenue earner for web search leader Google.

Not content to rest on its laurels, Yahoo a few days later launched a beta version of Audio Search, a website which it said would search some 50 million files on the internet.


technology@ft.com

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