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RealTime IT News

Microsoft's Move to Recover Search Share

Microsoft has rolled out a beta version of Windows Live Search to compete against Google and Yahoo for search attention.

The new service, which Microsoft said will be available in Windows Live Messenger and Windows Live Mail, repackages search results. Features include search preview, scoping and a slider bar Microsoft said is designed to give people more control over the search experience.

It offers customers the next generation of unified search services today, Christopher Payne, Microsoft's corporate vice president for Windows Live Search, told an audience Tuesday at the O'Reilly Emerging Technologies Conference.

Microsoft ranks third in the search engine wars behind Google and Yahoo, according to market researcher Nielsen//NetRatings.

While Google maintains a 48 percent share of searches and Yahoo is second with 22 percent, Microsoft actually lost pace, dropping 1.8 percent from 12.8 percent in January 2005 to 11 percent in January 2006.

Google told investors earlier this month its search index is "significantly larger than 8 billion pages."

In other news, Microsoft acquired Onfolio, a Cambridge, Mass., firm whose addition will help people store and share Web pages, according to Microsoft.

More than 5 billion searches were conducted in January, up 39 percent from a year ago, according to Nielsen//NetRatings.

Onfolio's information management technology will be incorporated into a beta version of Windows Live toolbar.

In addition to phishing and pop-up protection, the toolbar includes tabbed browsing, Web page sharing and detection of RSS feeds, which can be added to the Windows Live site.

Can the new search service reshape the Microsoft and MSN name and put it in a position to recover some of the search share?

The move lets the software giant "start with a clean slate and less baggage," said Joe Wilcox, analyst with JupiterResearch.

However, a makeover without improving relevancy of search results could actually hurt Microsoft's chances, according to Wilcox. (JupiterResearch and internetnews.com are owned by Jupitermedia.)