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Monday, March 6, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Stay tuned for MSN search news

Microsoft's MSN division is planning to make some announcements Tuesday night related to search. The company can hope it will take attention away from a week of not-so-hot news for the search team.

First, Microsoft Europe chief Neil Holloway said at a conference that "in six months' time, we'll be more relevant in the U.S. marketplace than Google." Fighting words for sure, but two days later a backpedaling Holloway said that he meant to say that MSN's search will be better than the current industry standard.

"This is a long-term goal," he said. "I did not put a date to it, as this is work in progress."

Then, Nielsen//NetRatings said MSN Search lost two points in market share from January 2005, compared with the previous year, and now holds about 11 percent of the pie. Google, by the way, gained 1 percent to a 48 percent stake.

In other worlds ...

Microsoft seems to be in good standing with the Bush administration.

After U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez visited the Redmond campus last month, he began calling for China to stop pirating American software.

Then last week, during President Bush's visit to India, he made a side trip that took him within spitting distance of Microsoft's India Development Center in Hyderabad.

Bush visited the Indian School of Business that's next to Microsoft's campus on the outskirts of town, then announced that the U.S. will open a new consulate in the city.

The consulate should make it easier for Microsoft and other software companies to deal with visas for all the employees flying back and forth from their U.S. headquarters.

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Later, as he talked up globalization in New Delhi, Bush mentioned that Americans visiting India are likely to see U.S. companies like Microsoft.

Give a dog a bone

What do dogs, bird flu and Democrats have in common?

They're all categories in the social networking site Wet Paint, which goes live today. Wet Paint is making six themed sites available in the latest adaptation of the wiki phenomenon. In the future, any number of topics can be created by users of the free service, which anyone can add to or edit. The other themed sites are Xbox 360, Republicans and cancer.

The Seattle company has 11 employees and $5.25 million in backing from Frazier Technology Ventures and Trinity Ventures. It intends to make money through Google ads.

Among the subjects making their Web debut are the dogs Fergal and Jackson. Wet Paint spokesman Jason Reindorp owns Fergal. Wet Paint CEO Ben Elowitz, who owns Jackson, co-founded online jewelry retailer BlueNile.

Download: biztech@seattletimes.com

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