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Microsoft-Seeqpod acquisition: Good idea, wrong company

If Microsoft wants to make music search a core component of its new search engine, it ought to consider buying Grooveshark.

The rumor mill has been all atwitter about a link from Seeqpod's newly sparse home page to the search page for Microsoft's Web site. (Not to be confused with Live Search, Microsoft's Internet search engine.)

Seeqpod was a playable search engine for music files--essentially, its crawlers scoured Web sites looking for MP3 files, then it transformed those MP3s into streamable audio files. It offered its own user-facing Web page, as well as APIs for third-party sites, and was used as the back-end for Songerize (which no longer works) and Bandloop. After being hit by copyright infringement lawsuits from several of the major record labels, Seeqpod filed for bankruptcy last month. Now, the company is apparently seeking some big player to buy up its assets, and apparently Microsoft has expressed interest.

Microsoft is set to launch the next version of its search engine in the next month or so. I've seen some test versions, and I don't think it's giving too much away to say that one area where Microsoft hopes to gain ground on Google is by improving its specialized or "vertical" search in areas such as product search.

The rumors say that Microsoft is interested in Seeqpod primarily for people and technology. But if Microsoft really wants to differentiate itself from Google, it should integrate playable music search directly into the next version of its search engine--just as it did after acquiring Farecast, which predicts whether airfare prices for a particular trip are rising or falling.

But Seeqpod may not be the best bet for integrating music search. I think Microsoft should be looking at Grooveshark. It's delivered almost flawless results in my tests, the interface offers a lot of interesting features such as album cover art and on-the-fly playlists, and so far it hasn't been targeted by the labels for copyright infringement, although I don't know enough about law to say if it's on solid legal ground or not.