By Nick Patience
Fujitsu Ltd’s US-based software unit will today announce information assistant software that creates and maintains indexes of all incoming emails and all web sites visited so that users can more easily locate information within those messages and sites. Fujitsu says it will appeal to enterprises because so much information coming into a corporation does not come in the form of word documents or spreadsheets. The software is based on the TeamWare technology from its ICL Plc UK-based subsidiary. Right now the beta is meant as a standalone product, but future versions will be network-enabled and will have groupware uses, says Victor Xue, manager of emerging products at Fujitsu Software. Knowledge Browser, as it is known, does not build full text indexes, which would quickly consume hard disk space, rather it indexes concepts claims Xue. It uses a Fujitsu patent-pending statistical analysis algorithm to work out relationships between concepts and map them accordingly. They are displayed to the user in order of relevancy and then more detailed traditional keyword searches can be done on those emails and web sites. The tool indexes as the email arrives so unread emails are also included in the index. Another feature uses color-highlights to show what has changed on a web page from the last time the users visited the site. Once the network-enabled version of becomes available, there are obvious privacy issues that raise their head. But Xue says that indexing can be turned on and off at any time and users can specify domains that they do not want included in the indexing process. As for the future groupware version, users will be able to hide chunks of their personal index from others so they can only view what the user wants them to see. A slightly quirky, though probably useful feature, is the tool’s ability to use existing punctuation marks within a page and highlight them as a trigger to launch the Knowledge Browser, which is running in the background, indicating that it has found relevant web sites and email messages that relate to the current web site. Fujitsu says the tool takes up about 2.5 Mb of disk space plus a recommended 20 Mb for the index, though power uses may require more than that, it cautions. At present the tool supports all POP3 email packages, including Microsoft Outlook, Eudora, Exchange, ccMail and Netscape. IMAP4 support is planned, says Xue. However, it should be noted that this does not support web- based email services, such as Hotmail or those offered by the portals. But as this is aimed at the corporate market, that is not really a problem. Fujitsu claims that unlike rival products, such as the Enfish Tracker Pro it is aimed at the enterprise, though the network support would seem to be crucial aspect that the product presently lacks. Currently in tests with about 200 beta sites – mainly in Europe – the product will be available some time in the second quarter for $79 per user through Fujitsu Software’s direct sales force and through its TeamWare Group in Europe. The product is at http://www.knowledgebrowser.com for free 30-day evaluation.