Europe launched a satellite last month aimed at rivaling the U.S. Global Positioning System. France has also launched an effort to put libraries online, a response to an ambitious book-scanning project at Google. Techies are cautious about Quaero's prospects. "Europe has a lot of catching up to do," said Jerome Bouteiller, editor of the French online magazine Neteconomie.
Quaero, which means "to search" in Latin, is a search engine that claims to be all things to all people. In their desperate hopes to strike againt supposed American imperialism, they're going back to the original world controlling empire.
Quaero epitomizes European ambitions especially for French President Jacques Chirac of creating alternatives to U.S. technological prowess. But facing off against super-rich, super-talented U.S. companies may prove daunting for the cumbersome consortium of European companies and public agencies hatching Quaero.
"We must meet the global challenge of the American giants Google and Yahoo," Chirac said in an address last week laying out his policy priorities for 2006.
"Today the new geography of knowledge and cultures is being drawn. Tomorrow, that which is not available online runs the risk of being invisible to the world," he said.
Designers insist that Quaero will not just be a search engine but a set of tools for translating, identifying and indexing images, sound and text.
The technology would work with all platforms computer desktops, mobile devices and even televisions and be sold to television companies, filmmakers, post-production facilities and anyone who creates or uses audiovisual content, according to France's electronics giant Thomson.
Even U.S. technology powerhouses like Yahoo Inc. and Microsoft Corp. haven't been able to erode Google's dominance, even after spending tens of millions of dollars to improve their search engines. Through November, Google held a 40 percent share of the U.S. search market, up from 35 percent in the previous year, according to comScore Media Metrix. Google's lead outside the United States is believed to be even larger.
French broadcasters are planning an international television network aimed at presenting a more French view of world events than CNN and the British Broadcasting Corp. The network, CFII, will broadcast in French and English to Europe, the Middle East and Africa beginning sometime in the next year.
But details are scant. None of the key players including Thomson, France Telecom and Deutsche Telekom would comment on cost.
Europe launched a satellite last month aimed at rivaling the U.S. Global Positioning System. France has also launched an effort to put libraries online, a response to an ambitious book-scanning project at Google.
Techies are cautious about Quaero's prospects.
"Europe has a lot of catching up to do," said Jerome Bouteiller, editor of the French online magazine Neteconomie."Yes, it's highly ambitious," said Jean-Luc Moullet, who oversees the Quaero project at Thomson. "There's nothing to compare it to."