Microsoft buys another slice of the apps market
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Microsoft has splashed out for yet another applications software company with the $96 million cash takeover of Vicinity, a firm that helps customers locate nearby merchants.

Vicinity’s software helps customers find information about a company's nearest outlet and its hours via the Web, telephone or wireless devices. Its customers include Taco Bell, the Gap and about 300 other retail and service chains.

Microsoft said it will merge Vicinity with its own MapPoint unit, neatly eliminating a rival in the process. It will also use the applications as a further proof point in its efforts to flesh out the .Net platform by optimising the software for that.

The acquisition inevitably provokes speculation that Microsoft is gearing up for another spending spree following the purchase of an enterprise application software profile through the takeover of Great Plains and Navision in the accounting and CRM spaces.

The company can well afford to make takeover bids on pretty much anyone it chooses. It has around $40 billion in cash on its books according to its most recent earnings statements. A number of analysts have predicted that Microsoft will make a bid for a services company, with Accenture most frequently named as a likely candidate.

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