Microsoft upgrades search

Windows Live Search beta features image search, customizable results. Toolbar unveiled, Live.com refreshed.

Elinor Mills Former Staff Writer
Elinor Mills covers Internet security and privacy. She joined CNET News in 2005 after working as a foreign correspondent for Reuters in Portugal and writing for The Industry Standard, the IDG News Service and the Associated Press.
Elinor Mills
2 min read
Microsoft is set to launch on Wednesday the beta version of its new Windows Live Search page, which uses the same behind-the-scenes technology as MSN Search but will eventually become the company's sole search offering.

"In the future there will be one search experience--when we come out of beta (with Windows Live Search), which won't be years" from now, said Adam Sohn, director of MSN global sales, marketing and public relations. Sohn was making a reference to Google, whose products often stay in beta for years.

Microsoft merged MSN with Windows last summer and announced plans in November to offer Web-based services under the Windows Live name. Windows Live will combine e-mail, blogging, instant messaging and other services. MSN, meanwhile, will focus on content and media, Sohn said.

"This is the second major chapter in our overall effort to drive innovation in search," Yusuf Mehdi, senior vice president of MSN information services, said in an interview Monday. "The first two-and-a-half years were about catching up and building the basic services...closing the gap with the current players" with regard to relevancy of search results.

Mehdi said Microsoft has closed the gap with Yahoo and is "within a couple of points of Google."

Windows Live Search features new capabilities for image search, news search, RSS feeds, mail, local search and shopping. The beta search product also offers a search preview, a search slider bar that lets users specify the number and size of results on the page, and smart scroll, which lets users view all search results without moving from page to page.

Microsoft also unveiled an updated version of its Live.com site and a beta version of Windows Live Toolbar.

The new Windows Live Toolbar lets users search from any Web page using Windows Live Search. It incorporates technology, acquired during the purchase of OnFolio, that allows people to save information onto their computers and find information through an integrated RSS aggregator and reader.

Microsoft's Live.com service also will allow users to add persistent search results to their home page, subscribe to RSS feeds directly from search results and use new gadgets such as clock, notepad, stock quotes and weather.

The Windows Live Search will be accessible across all the upcoming Windows Live services, such as Windows Live Messenger and Windows Live Mail.

MSN Search has about 11 percent of the U.S. search market, behind Yahoo with 22 percent and Google with 48 percent, according Nielsen/NetRatings.