Once upon a time, more than a decade before the founding of Autonomy, a New Mexico inventor had the idea for a generic pattern recognition tool. He implemented it on a PC add-in board that, if I recall correctly, plugged into the Apple II. This was the genesis of the company Excalibur Technologies.
The Excalibur operation eventually moved north of San Diego, CA. And the company acquired ConQuest, makers of RetrievalWare, one of the original government-focused text search companies. And Allen & Company became major backers (presumably before the acquisition, but I don’t actually recall). There was some excitement in the mid-1990s, when extensible RDBMS were coming out, and at least two of Informix, IBM, and Oracle (I forget which two) seemed to be introducing Excalibur-based extensions. That fizzled, however. Later there was a merger with an Intel image-retrieval operation, and a name change to Convera. That, it seems, was spectacularly unsuccessful, although I must admit that I wasn’t paying attention and hence missed, as it were, the spectacle.
Now the company offers RetrievalWare, augmented by some pattern-matching technology – e.g., what they think is a better form of fuzzy word tokenization, and some color/shape/texture image matching as well. They also have introduced a web search product. (This is confusingly called Excalibur, but they told me last week that a much-needed rebranding is underway.) Maybe this strategy will be the one that finally works out for them.