Execs announce firmer launch date for software that digs through e-mail and files alike, after Google puts out its own program.
During its earnings call with financial analysts, Microsoft said an MSN-branded tool would be made available before the end of 2004. The tool and an algorithmic Web searching engine will be in beta testing by year's end, a representative said Friday.
"In terms of search, we should see some good MSN search technology in this calendar year, probably late the second half," John Connors, Microsoft's chief financial officer, said in the conference call. "We're going to have a heck of a great race in search between Google, Microsoft and Yahoo. It's going to be really fun to follow."
Google beat Microsoft to the punch last week, when it introduced Google Desktop Search, a Windows program that indexes a computer's hard drive to quickly search inside documents and e-mail. Yahoo executives have said the company plans a desktop search tool as well.
Microsoft first demonstrated the technology for its own desktop search tool at a financial analysts' conference in July. At the time, MSN executive Yusuf Mehdi would say only that it would be out before the release of Longhorn, the next version of Windows, scheduled for 2006.
Yahoo and Microsoft have been making acquisitions to boost their capabilities in this area. In July, Microsoft bought Lookout Software, which has a program for searching within Outlook e-mail. Yahoo acquired Oddpost in July and said this week that it would buy Stata Labs.
Google has emerged as a key rival to Microsoft. In addition to the battle over search, the company is seen as a potentially broader competitor in several areas, including the market for Web browsing and instant messaging.
Google also confirmed this week that it is opening an office in Kirkland, Wash., a Seattle suburb not far from Microsoft's Redmond headquarters.
CNET News.com's Stefanie Olsen contributed to this report.