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Microsoft to launch search engine

SEATTLE – Microsoft will later today launch its long-promised internet search engine, which will compete directly with market leader Google, sources close to the company have said.

The world’s largest software maker had promised to enter the search market with its own technology by the end of the year, as it seeks to attract more users to boost advertising revenue for its MSN internet division.

Earlier on Tuesday, Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer told shareholders at the company’s annual meeting Microsoft would beat Google’s technology and double its advertising revenue in the next five years.

“We will catch up, we will surpass,” Ballmer said.

The company had no official comment on its plans for the new MSN Search service, which has been operating on a trial basis at since the summer.

Microsoft, which has been relying on Yahoo Inc. unit Inktomi to power its search services, decided to enter the search game after Google took the lead and turned itself into a multi-billion dollar company.

Search still remains a small part of Microsoft’s business, however, with the MSN internet division posting revenue of US$360 million (194 million pounds) compared to total company profits of US$36.8 billion in the latest fiscal year.

The MSN unit, however, recently reached profitability on an operating basis thanks to increased web-based advertising.

Google recently reported that revenue in its latest quarter doubled to US$806 million from a year earlier.

Google makes its money by displaying text-based advertising alongside its search results, which has turned into a lucrative segment of the online advertising market.

Microsoft, Google and Yahoo are also going head-to-head to provide localised information by searching for nearby businesses and services based on geography.

Beyond the looming rivalry over online search services, local hard drive search and customised search are considered the next frontiers in search technology.

Google unveiled last month a preliminary version of its desktop search tools for finding information buried in emails, documents and other files on hard drives.

Microsoft has said that it will launch its own desktop search engine by the end of the year.

Personalised search promises to deliver search results that are more relevant by taking into account an individual’s interests based on previous search queries and other information. Inc.’s search service, called A9, offers such technology.