Microsoft is set to unleash its much-anticipated search technology this week, as it ramps up efforts to take on market leader Google.
The new search engine will go live on the company's MSN Web site on Thursday, a representative for the company says.
The software giant has made clear its plans to conquer the lucrative search market, teasing industry watchers with Web and desktop search previews.
In June, Microsoft upgraded its MSN Search site and it has been posting new search technology prototypes at its testing site sandbox.msn.com. Meanwhile, company executives have stated their intentions to take Google to the mat.
Now Web users will be able to test-drive the company's latest search efforts. Although details of the new search engine weren't available on Wednesday, SearchEngineWatch.com Editor Danny Sullivan says that he had been playing around with search betas on Microsoft's Sandbox site earlier this week.
"From what I've seen on Sandbox, the technology is still pretty unremarkable," Sullivan says. Although he acknowledges that the search tools he sampled did not have all the "bells and whistles" that are expected with the full release, Sullivan says that some test searches did not bring up authoritative sites that he would expect from a search engine.
"From what I've seen so far, they haven't been savvy in terms of search optimization," Sullivan says.
This could be a major problem for the Redmond, Washington, company if it expects to leap past Google and Yahoo. According to Sullivan, to stand out a new search technology needs to serve up incredibly relevant results, possibly delivered in a new way, such as being able to tap separate databases for different types of searches.
Otherwise, new search engines should build in a set of good features if they want to lure in users. "It could be victory by a bunch of little cuts instead of one sword," Sullivan says.
Whatever approach Microsoft ends up taking, it appears determined to pierce the top of the market. MSN Search is already number three in the market, according to Sullivan, so the company is building from a solid user base.