Xerox Chief Says Technology Will Challenge Google

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Xerox Chairman and CEO Anne Mulcahy said she sees potential for her company in leveraging decades of research by its Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) subsidiary, and its R&D in natural language search is poised to eventually take on Google.

In Orlando, Fla., to address 800 Xerox reseller partners, Mulcahy said in an interview that last week's announcement of PARC's licensing, collaboration and investment deal with San Francisco-based Powerset on the technology could well mark a new era in search.

"It's hard to tell, but I do think that there's a field of natural language search that has not yet been optimized, and certainly PARC has a legacy for research, over decades, in natural language search that I think is world-renowned," Mulcahy said. "I do believe that at some point . . . when it becomes feasible to use a natural language search approach it will take off and challenge the current Google architecture"

PARC, a subsidiary of Xerox, Stamford, Conn., is legendary for its break-through contributions to computing. Among other things, PARC developed an early version of the graphical user interface (GUI) for computers that became a forerunner for the early versions of Apple's Macintosh operating system.

As Xerox worked through a severe financial crisis in the early part of the decade, the company placed less public emphasis on the potential of PARC's R&D capabilities. Now that Xerox has put those financial troubles behind it, the company appears eager to shine a new light on its technology innovations.

Among other things, Xerox executives at the reseller conference briefly alluded to new technology under development. One such technology Xerox is working on includes the potential for printers or copiers to "recycle" paper on the fly by removing ink and markings from used documents and, on the same pass, print new text or images onto those same pieces of paper. Natural language search under development at Powerset was a good fit for Xerox, Mulcahy said.

"There is a genuine appreciation for what the goals are for Powerset, and a lot of work to be done," Mulcahy said. "We are placing a bet on a big idea for the future and people are pleased that PARC is a part of that."

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