NEW YORK Microsoft has introduced a beta test version of its new search engine, Live.com, as part of its much-hyped initiative to launch a series of free ad-supported software products—namely Windows Live and Office Live—which will be distributed via the Internet.
The early version of Live.com, which went up Wednesday, features a clean Google-esque search box at the top of its home page, along with a series of Google-like simple keyword ad units displayed in the upper right-hand corner. The rest of the new search site allows users to customize their search experience by displaying personalized news headlines and weather information.
In addition, Live.com appears designed to allow users to link their Web search activity directly to the rest of their Microsoft-enabled activities, such as e-mail and MSN Messenger. When the new Windows Live and Office Live products were announced last year, Microsoft officials touted the potential synergy between its desktop and online software.
Both Windows Live and Office Live are said to feature Microsoft's beta adCenter product, a proprietary ad-serving platform that will allow companies the means to place search ads targeted by users' demographic information.
In 2005, Microsoft's MSN division made a lot of noise following the relaunch of MSN Search, which was meant to serve as a direct competitor to Google. Yet since that time, Google's market share in the search space has only increased, with MSN's share hovering in the neighborhood of 2 percent, according to Nielsen//NetRatings. It is unclear at this point how MSN Search and Live.com will fit together in the future.