comes to the latest technology craze, Microsoft
Corp. isn't known for being first or best: It's
known for being biggest.
software behemoth has used its strength,
money and reach to go from underdog to top dog
on everything from Internet browsers to digital
content players. Now, its attention turns to the
growing field of search, with a broad-based push
that extends from its dominant Windows operating
system to its MSN online division.
Inc. currently dominates Internet search,
something analysts say could pose problems for
Microsoft - and not only because Google takes
away advertising dollars.
popularity and simple, alluring user interfaces
of the best search sites threaten to reduce the
control that Microsoft maintains over people's
computing experience through popular products
like the Windows operating system and Internet
the amount of digital information explodes,
Microsoft also recognizes that computing today
is not just about creating work documents,
e-mails and pictures of your sister's new puppy
- it's also about finding all that later.
think Microsoft has certainly realized ... that
if you can't find it, it doesn't do you any good
at all," said Rob Enderle, principal
analyst with the Enderle Group.
efforts are so sweeping that painting its
strategy as a simple matchup with Google is a
"narrow, narrow way of looking at it,"
said Jim Desler, a Microsoft spokesman.Microsoft
has conceded its own missteps in search - most
notably the decision to rely on an outside
company to provide consumer search functions for
MSN. Building its own may have given it a better
per cent of U.S. Web users went to Google's
search engine in March, compared with 31 per
cent for Yahoo and 29 per cent for MSN,
according to Nielsen/Net Ratings.
is racing to play catch-up, a typical approach
whenever it perceives a threat, said David
Smith, vice-president of Internet strategy with
plans to unveil its own Internet search
technology this year after seeing what MSN
director Lisa Gurry termed the
"amazing" consumer demand and the
Microsoft plans to use its new technology only
for Internet searches based on relevance,
replacing Inktomi, now owned by rival Yahoo!
Inc. Microsoft will continue to work with
Overture Services, another Yahoo subsidiary, for
the paid listings that run alongside regular
also is gradually unveiling a news search
product, called NewsBot, similar to Google's
news offering, which uses software to sort news
stories based on relevance. Other technologies
being developed include BlogBot, to search Web
journals, and AnswerBot to better answer
questions posed in plain English.
Gurry said, Microsoft hopes to make search more
personalized. For example, the search engine
would use past behaviour to guess whether a user
who types in "saturn" is looking for
the planet or the car.
record-keeping evokes complex privacy issues
that Gurry concedes still must be worked out.
And such issues illustrate what Gartner's Smith
said may be Google's key advantage over
not just technology, it's trust," Smith
said. "Google is trusted, and Microsoft is
not as trusted."
also says that search will be a key component of
its next version of Windows, dubbed Longhorn,
which isn't expected until at least 2006.
current Windows operating system, it's easy to
get lost in a web of directories and
subdirectories or to become daunted by the
prospect of sorting through thousands of
pictures identified only by meaningless numbers.
system is being designed to easily find data
from different sources - say, a Word document, a
picture and an e-mail about the same event -
regardless of where it is stored, lead product
manager Greg Sullivan said.
products also have search improvements. The
company's latest Sharepoint Portal Server
software for businesses added ways for workers
in large companies to find other employees who
are working on a similar project or have needed
search projects being explored in Microsoft's
research arm is "Stuff I've Seen,"
which aims to help people find data they had
previously looked at, regardless of whether the
information was online or on a computer, or when
it had been seen.
project, "Stuff I Should See," looks
at data a user has seen and tries to guess what
else that person might find relevant. Meanwhile,
MSR Media Browser would find digital photos of a
loved one based on face recognition software.
course, Microsoft isn't alone in thinking about
ways to expand beyond Web search - and win over
more users. For instance, Google Labs, which
Google calls its "technology
playground," is pursuing a personalized
search tool and a system that would permit
searches by voice instead of the keyboard.
Microsoft may be lagging now, analysts say
Google should still be very nervous. After all,
some of Microsoft's biggest successes have been
in technologies it was late to develop - most
notably, its now-dominant Internet Explorer
browser, which trounced the original leader,
Microsoft turns its attention to an industry or
a market, it's proven (to have) done a
remarkably good job in catching up and taking a
leadership role," said Niki Scevak, an
analyst with Jupiter Research. "So in terms
of past experience ... I would say it's never
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