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Wednesday, November 10, 2004 - Page updated at 10:13 A.M.
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Microsoft search engine rollout expected

By Kim Peterson
Seattle Times technology reporter

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Microsoft's MSN division is planning to make an announcement today related to online-search technology, giving rise to expectations that the company will begin offering its own Internet search engine tomorrow.

The company has scheduled meetings with reporters throughout the day today to talk with its search team about an announcement it plans to make public at 9 p.m. It would not elaborate yesterday on the details of that announcement.

MSN has been using a version of a search engine from rival Yahoo! while it has developed its own search engine, which it planned to make available by year's end.

Yesterday, Chairman Bill Gates told shareholders that the timeline would be stepped up a bit.

"We have a lot of new things coming up in search," he said during the company's annual shareholder meeting.

"Even before the end of the year, I think we'll be outlining the progress we're making there, coming along and delivering an even better search capability than people have ever had before."

Microsoft has been on the sidelines of Internet searches while Google has surged ahead to become the market leader, and that didn't sit well with executives. Gates once said that "Google kicked our butts," and Chief Executive Steve Ballmer has said he regretted not making a research and development investment in search over the years.

In July, MSN remodeled its Web-search page in a style that Google pioneered — simple, clean and free from advertising. However, it still used technology from Yahoo! to run its searches behind the scenes.

At the same time, it released a preview of the search engine it was developing internally, although it withdrew the preview in August and made it available again early last month.

MSN also has been working on a new tool to search files stored in a user's personal computer, and said it will make that service available by the end of the year. Google again beat Microsoft to the punch in this area, releasing a test version of its "Google Desktop Search" last month.
 
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It is unclear whether MSN also plans to release its desktop-search software tomorrow along with its new Internet search engine. The company said yesterday it would not comment on its plans until today.

Seattle Times technology reporter Brier Dudley contributed to this report. Kim Peterson: 206-464-2360 or kpeterson@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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