RealTime IT News

Your Next Live Search Destination: Flight Status

Microsoft has quietly begun delivering a new capability for its Live Search competitor to Google Search.

But while the long-term goal of the company's new Live Search Active Answers technology is expansive, Microsoft has decided to start modestly: by providing the ability for users to quickly check airline flight status online.

"We are simplifying key tasks with Active Answers, a new method of retrieving up-to-the-minute data from the Web," according to a blog post by MJ Lee, senior program manager for Live Search, on Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT) Live Search team blog site.

"You can type in a specific flight number into the search box ... and Live Search will provide detailed status information on a particular flight, including terminal and gate information," Lee said.

Additionally, the user can start a generic search for "flight status," and Live Search will provide a results page that enables them to then enter information to get the status of a specific flight.

While mundane, Microsoft is hinted that travel status is just the beginning of its plans for Active Answers technologies.

The feature is based on a collaboration between Live Search and Microsoft Research teams, the company said. However, future implementations of the technology remain unclear for the moment.

"Live Search is becoming more than just a place to get information -- it is also a place you can do things," Lee wrote. "We are simplifying key tasks with Active Answers, a new method of retrieving up-to-the-minute data from the Web."

Ever since Microsoft's failed bid to buy Yahoo last year, the company has been rolling out more pieces of its Live Search strategy, although they haven't seemed to have had much impact on Microsoft's market share for search.

According to figures from tracking firm Net Applications, Microsoft's Live Search only garners 1.74 percent of all global searches and, even when combined with MSN Search's 2.97 percent share, all of the company's consumer search properties account for less than five percent of searches.

That's compared to Yahoo, with 10 percent of searches, and market leader Google, with a whopping 81.57 percent, according to Net Applications.

In the meantime, Microsoft executives have said repeatedly that they'd still like to work some kind of search collaboration deal with Yahoo.

Microsoft has also continued to acquire other strategic search assets, including last summer's purchase of San Francisco-based Powerset, a leader in semantic search.

Finally, word leaked out in early March that Microsoft is also internally testing an upgrade to its search engine technology, which it has codenamed Kumo.