Update: As a clarification, Microsoft previously had a Google News competitor, named MSN Newsbot, which no longer exists.
At this time, Live Search News looks like a simplified version of Google News. The layout and design are aesthetically pleasing and will be familiar to Techmeme readers.
The orange breaking-news bar on the top is a decent feature of the site and only appears when big news is happening. The breaking-news information, unfortunately, appears only to be provided by MSNBC and not automatically generated by trends. Even considering this, it is still a good way to call attention to important stories.
One feature that I really like is the local-news sidebar on the right. It appears that the site automatically detects your IP address and feeds you news from the state that you're in without you needing to register an account. This local focus is a nice touch.
Live Search News also lets you refine news results based on categories that are relevant to the story you're viewing. To access this functionality, just click "More on this story" for any article and you'll see relevant stories, along with these filters.
One feature that sets Live Search News apart from Google News is its "Top News Videos" section. Not only are the videos provided relevant, but Microsoft has implemented the same preview technology that Live Search uses in its video search. If you roll over any of the video images, a preview of the clip will automatically start to play. I can't say enough about the cool factor of this feature, in both news and in its regular video search.
While Microsoft is not providing a specific number of sources that are included in Live Search News, it appears, at this point, to be significantly less than Google News' 4,500. Google News definitely has more customization and alert options than Live Search News. Despite those differences in features, I prefer the design of Live Search News over that of Google News, and simplicity does a lot for readability. In addition, I love the video preview integration, along with the breaking news.
There has been no announcement, at this point, from the Live Search blog, so detailed information on this new service is limited.
Google News already has a fairly loyal user base and it benefits from the popularity of the search engine, so Live Search News may struggle to find an audience until the search engine grows in popularity. However, I think that Live Search News is a strong offering and is definitely worth a look.