The power of excellent public relations and positioning a company as an alternative to the technological norm has paid off for Powerset, the semantics oriented search technology which launched its limited public testing application in May which lends a new way to semantically navigate Wikipedia. Rumors began spinning around the blogosphere last week that Microsoft was looking to acquire Powerset, and it looks like the inevitable has happened.
From Microsoft’s Live Search Blog :
We’re excited to announce that we’ve reached an agreement to acquire Powerset, a San Francisco-based search and natural language company.
Powerset will join our core Search Relevance team, remaining intact in San Francisco. Powerset brings with it natural language technology that nicely complements other natural language processing technologies we have in Microsoft Research.
More importantly, Powerset brings to Live Search a set of talented engineers and computational linguists in downtown San Francisco. This is a great team with a wide range of experience from other search engines and research organizations like PARC (formerly Xerox PARC).
We’re buying Powerset first and foremost because we’re impressed with the people there. Powerset CTO and cofounder Barney Pell is a visionary and incredible evangelist. When he introduced our senior engineers to some of the most senior people at Powerset — Search engineers and computational linguists like Tim Converse, Chad Walters, Scott Prevost, Lorenzo Thione, and Ron Kaplan — we came away impressed by their smarts, their experience, their passion for search, and a shared vision.
That shared vision is to take Search to the next level by adding understanding of the intent and meaning behind the words in searches and webpages.
Is Powerset technology, which works quite different than Google web search or conventional web search, the future for Microsoft? Will this become their differentiation point over the long haul with Google?
…problems exist because search engines today primarily match words in a search to words on a webpage. We can solve these problems by working to understand the intent behind each search and the concepts and meaning embedded in a webpage. Doing so, we can innovate in the quality of the search results, in the flexibility with which searchers can phrase their queries, and in the search user experience. We will use knowledge extracted from webpages to improve the result descriptions and provide new tools to help customers search better.
Working with our existing Search team and other Microsoft teams that focus on natural language, Powerset will help us address all of those problems and opportunities.
Sounds like it. We’ll have more on this story as it continues to break.