Yahoo joins the search with Stata purchase

Yahoo has snapped up privately-held e-mail software company Stata Labs, which develops technology that allows users to quickly search through mail and attachments. The move, announced Thursday, generated speculation that the Internet powerhouse is gearing up to take on Google's Gmail Webmail service, which features broad capabilities to search e-mail messages.

Stata offered an e-mail client called Bloomba, which allows users to manage and organize multiple e-mail accounts, search through mail, and even save searches as views. It was lauded by reviewers as being efficient and easy to use, but lacked a high profile and large development budget.

While Yahoo doesn't plan to continue offering the Bloomba product or its spam filter software SAproxy Pro, the acquisition will provide the company with "technological expertise and strategic assets," according to a notice posted on Stata's Web site.

Further details of the transaction were not disclosed.

Stata is the second e-mail company Yahoo purchased this year. In July it acquired e-mail startup Oddpost, which offered a Web-based e-mail product with an interface that functioned like a desktop program, allowing users to organize and delete messages by dragging them into folders.

That Yahoo is ramping up its investments to gain greater e-mail organizing abilities comes as little surprise, according to Jupiter Research analyst Michael Gartenberg.

"It's becoming clear that the ability to do search is absolutely critical in this age of information overload," Gartenberg said. "Yahoo obviously wants to get into this market and offer its customers search capabilities."

The buy also comes as Yahoo faces increasing competition from search giant Google. In addition to rolling out a beta of Gmail earlier this year, Google introduced just last week a desktop search application that allows users to search for information in PC files, local e-mail and instant messaging sessions.

While it is not clear whether Yahoo will also extend its search ambitions beyond e-mail, integration of PC, Web and e-mail search is where the market is leading, according to Gartenberg.

He added, however, that the challenge is to make the integration seamless.

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Scarlet Pruitt

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