Google Inc.'s intention to buy ITA Software Inc. for $700 million, announced Thursday, could put the company in control of widely used technology that, among other things, helps power a key aspect of Microsoft Corp.'s rival search engine.
Google said in a statement that ITA Software's technology "opens exciting possibilities for us to create new way for users to more easily find flight information online."
Among other clients, Microsoft uses ITA Software's technology to include airfare pricing and availability information in Bing, according to ITA Software's Web site.
Bing is a search engine unveiled amid a great deal of fanfare last year. Microsoft has touted Bing's ability to provide accurate, up-to-date information on airfares as an important aspect that helps distinguish the search engine from competitors, including Google.
A Microsoft spokesman declined to comment on the ITA acquisition.
Other companies using ITA Software's technology include airlines such as AMR Corp.'s American Airlines and online travel services firm Orbitz Worldwide Inc.
An Orbitz spokesman didn't respond to a request for comment.
As the dominant force in Internet search and advertising, Google has attracted a great deal of scrutiny from federal antitrust regulators. The company's $750 million purchase of mobile-phone advertising firm AdMob Inc., for example, was delayed for several months by regulatory review before it closed in May.
Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt said during a conference call held Thursday that he expects "significant" regulatory review of the ITA Software acquisition.
According to recent data from comScore Inc., Google held a 63.7% share of the U.S. Internet search market in May, compared with an 18.3% share for Yahoo Inc., and a 12.1% share for Microsoft.
Microsoft has invested heavily in its pursuit of Google in the search market. The company's unveiling of Bing last year has been followed by extensive advertising, encouraging Internet users to shift away from Google and try something that Microsoft promotes as better able to provide specific, tailored information.
ITA Software pulled in a massive,$100 million round of funding in 2006, from investors including venture capital firm Sequoia Capital.
The deal announced Thursday would therefore mark another acquisition by Google of a company backed by Sequoia, one of Google's own original investors.
Other Sequoia-backed firms bought by Google include AdMob and YouTube, which Google acquired in 2006.