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Last October, Amazon set up A9 in San Jose, CA, a “stealth mode” company that would say only that it intended to focus on search technologies. Now everyone can see what they’ve been up to. On Wednesday the company launched a new Web search engine at www.a9.com that combines conventional Web search (powered by Google) with book results from Amazon and traffic information about sites from another Amazon subsidiary, Alexa. If you login to A9 using your Amazon user name, you also get access to some neat tools, such as a history of your previous searches and a “diary” where you can write notes about the sites you visit and access them from any Internet terminal. The new site is Amazon’s official entry in the accelerating race between major players such as Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft to provide the dominant tools people use to navigate the Web (see Search Beyond Google, TR March 2004). Where exactly does Amazon plan to position itself in that race? It’s still unclear. A9 spokeswoman Alison Diboll told the Associated Press that A9 is “part of Amazon’s continuing development from an online retailer to a technology services company”–whatever that means.

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