Microsoft and MSN is pumping up the volume on search, and not just a web search engine. Yusuf Mehdi, MSN’s top executive, announced the company will soon release technology to enable users to search e-mail, their hard disks and the Internet. The feature will be part of a new beta release of the MSN service, he told the Goldman Sachs Internet conference in Las Vegas.
Microsoft is also working on a system to track a visitor’s movements online and to then use that information to build a personalized Web page, also known as behavioral tracking. Microsoft hopes to offer on MSN Web the same kind of user-recognition that Amazon.com has.
Microsoft Windows, the operating system on 90% of computers, already features a file management/search system. However, Mehdi concedes that the system is not very efficient, and that it has to be improved in order to remain competitive. “I think it’s fair to say that we will tackle all of the things that you expect, including PC search, as part of the MSN effort”
Mehdi also revealed that Microsoft plans on launching a beta version of its new search utility soon, with a fully operational version expected by the end of the year.
“We’re going to make a very big investment in personalization, but it’s very clear that privacy and consumer trust are really a key thing,” Mehdi said.
Microsoft’s search engine plans may have been hurried by moves at Google and Yahoo. Google is integrating search into its Google GMail, Groups, and other new Google offerings. Yahoo has introduced a new version of Yahoo Messenger with integrated search, launched a new Yahoo News with search functionality, and is working on adding search functionality to its free Yahoo Mail offerings.