EU – Brussels okay for France to bankroll Google rival
BRUSSELS, March 12, 2008 - The EU's competition watchdog on Tuesdayapproved 99 million euros (152 million dollars) of French state aid for aconsortium to build a European rival to US internet search giant Google. The "Quaero" search engine project (Latin for "I search"), involving 23companies led by French technology giant Thomson, has not yet got off theground due to the lack of funding. Its estimated costs for the first five year is estimated at 199 millioneuros, half of which France -- which has championed the idea -- has agreed tofund. Following an "in-depth examination," the European Commission decided thatthe Quaero project "brings positive externalities for the community as awhole". However Quaero "is not spontaneously underpinned by the market owing todivergent interests within the consortium and to uncertainties regarding theproject's chances of success," the EU's executive arm said in a statement. Any resultant distortions in competition "should be limited," it added. "We are confident that the positive contribution the programme will make toEuropean research will outweigh any distortion of competition caused by theaid." the EU's Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said. Thomson's targetted clients for Quaero are internet network operators,content distributors and film production studios. When developed it will be available for personal computers, mobile phones,televisions and other platforms. The project was unveiled with great fanfare in 2005 by then FrenchPresident Jacques Chirac as a Franco-German attempt to come up with acompetitor to Google, the US company which has become the pre-eminent websearch engine. However in late 2006 some of the German developers left the project,deciding to work on a "complementary" search engine called "Theseus". The Commission last year approved a German aid scheme to Theseus.