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Microsoft launches new search engine to take on Google

Patrick Stafford /

Software giant Microsoft has unleashed its new search engine to replace the troubled Microsoft Live Search, in an attempt to catch up to market-leader Google, which controls more than 50% of the search market.

The new ‘Bing’ engine is designed to target online shoppers rather than browsers seeking general information. Microsoft calls it a “decision engine”.

Search results for a particular product will highlight reviews and other details, while the Bing search engine will also provide travel agent deals and bargains to users searching for a particular destination on maps.

“Today, search engines do a decent job of helping people navigate the web and find information, but they don’t do a very good job of enabling people to use the information they find,” Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer said at a company conference in San Diego overnight.

“When we set out to build Bing, we grounded ourselves in a deep understanding of how people really want to use the web.”

The new engine will replace the Live Search engine, which remains in third place in terms of market share, coming behind Google and Yahoo!.

According to Nielsen figures from 2007, Google claimed 53.6% of the search market, followed by Yahoo! at 19.9%, with Microsoft coming last at 12.9%.

Microsoft says the new engine uses new algorithms that decode the overall meaning of a search phrase, rather than an emphasis on individual words. It will also feature ‘Quick Tabs’ that recommend search refinements, previews for images and video files and preview boxes for web page results.

But Ninemsn chief executive, Joe Pollard, says not all of the features will be available to Australian users when the site launches next Wednesday, revealing many of the features will be introduced over the next 18 months.

But despite the attempt to claim back market share from Google, Ninemsn – which is partly owned by both Microsoft and PBL Media – says it expects a challenge in claiming more of the market.

“The big issue we face is breaking people’s Google habit and generating trials of our product,” Joe Pollard told the Australian Financial Review. “Google is a formidable competitor, absolutely, but ninemsn and Microsoft are also formidable companies and brands.”

The new engine will have some work to do, with Google claiming 90% of all online searches conducted in Australia. But director of MSN products at Ninemsn, Alex Parsons, said that the new goals for the engine aren’t ambitious.

“We’re not expecting to lift our share of queries to 20% or 50%, or even 10% next year. We’ll be aiming to take one share point at a time. We don’t have audacious goals for this product,” he said.

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Patrick Stafford

Patrick Stafford is a freelance journalist and a former deputy editor of SmartCompany.

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