Weiner views the MSN search switchover as the beginning of Microsofts longer-term bet on search as a fundamental technology across its products. Where the company can grab more search market share is by attracting search users through its other products, such as other MSN services and Microsofts Office software. "They realize their competitive advantage," Weiner said. "Put search in the inbox, in Hotmail and [instant messaging]. Put search in as many places that have your name on them as possible."MSN also has discussed upcoming search offerings that could differentiate it from its competitors, Sullivan said. For example, MSN is planning to offer a blog search service called MSN Blogbot. MSN officials initially pegged that for release by the end of 2004, but Blogbot has yet to go live. MSN Search also has begun experimenting with RSS features, letting users of its beta create RSS feeds for search queries. Along with its potential ties into other products, search also could help MSN become a player in the search-based advertising market, analysts say. Sullivan expects MSN to eventually stop using Yahoos paid-search division, Overture Services, for sponsored listings on its search site and to develop its own paid-search offerings. But such a move appears to be more than a year away since MSN signed a deal to use Overture listings through June 2006. MSN officials have not disclosed any plans to build its own sponsored-listings technology. The biggest impact from MSNs search entry may be in perception. Little more than a year ago, search users and even the Web site operators vying for top search rankings viewed Web search as being synonymous with Google. While Google remains dominant, more and more people are realizing that search options exist. Microsofts moves and potential marketing effort around MSN Search will only intensify the growing competition among the search engines, said Tim Kauffold, director of business development at search-engine marketing company Oneupweb, in Suttons Bay, Mich. "Googles lock on the share is starting to a slide a little bit," Kauffold said "Its good for all three of them, and it keeps them motivated to improve at all times." Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, views and analysis on enterprise search technology.
A Microsoft executive says the company has no plans to integrate its MSN desktop search application into Windows. Click here to read more.