Microsoft search sparks new war

Submitted by Editor on Sun, 14/11/2004 - 15:36

MICROSOFT'S search engine launched opens a new front for the world's biggest software company in the war for control of the internet, analysts said.

Correspondents in Washington

November 12, 2004

A global beta, or test version of MSN Search, was launched in 26 markets and 11 languages, rivalling Google and Yahoo by scanning some five billion pages on the world wide web.

The move marks a new strategy for the world's biggest Microsoft, which up to now has relied on the underlying technology of Yahoo and others for its MSN Search.

"The release of our beta is a huge step toward delivering the information consumers are looking for online, faster than previous versions of MSN Search," corporate vice president for the MSN Information Services Yusuf Mehdi said.

"With better results and more powerful search tools, MSN Search is creating a new, higher standard for online search - one that helps consumers find the information they need, when they need it."

Microsoft has been developing its search engine for 18 months, is trying to get a bigger share of the lucrative business of combining internet search and advertising.

For Google, which in recent years surpassed Yahoo as the search leader, Microsoft's move could spell trouble since the new search engine will be incorporated in Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser, which sells as an integral part of the Windows platform that equips 90 per cent of personal computers sold around the world.

Analysts say Microsoft's move is aimed at keeping Explorer and Windows as the main technology used for the internet, and heading off migrations to other platforms.

"Microsoft's search quest is more about the web than Google, as it was with Netscape during the browser wars," Jupiter Research analyst Joe Wilcox said.

"Like Netscape, Google poses no serious platform threat to Windows. The real threat is the web and its informational utility that does not require Windows."

As for the search engine itself, Chris Sherman of said the MSN engine is "comparable to Google and Yahoo in scope, and for most of my initial tests, in relevancy as well".

In the US, MSN Search has some additional features such as being able to sort results by geography by clicking on "Near me", but this feature has yet to be turned on in the Australian version hosted by joint venture partner ninemsn. The search engine determines the geographic lotion by the user's IP address.

Mr Sherman said Microsoft may be able to cut into market share of Google and Yahoo, but that those companies would also be improving their products.

"Speculation has focused on whether this entry by Microsoft signals the end of Google's web search domination. Not likely," he said.

"Google isn't going to stand still, as we saw with last night's stealth increase in Google's index to a reported eight billion plus pages, which means Google is likely working with a full index of more than 10 billion items - roughly twice the size of Microsoft's web index.

"Far from being a Google killer, MSN Search is instead a welcome new alternative for searchers, and a catalyst for sparking further improvements and innovations at other services."




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