Microsoft is launching a new search engine that it claims will help searchers find information more quickly and be able to view it more easily.

Making its debut on Wednesday, Windows Live Search is the latest move from Microsoft in a significant strategy shift towards provision of internet-based software and services.

Windows Live Search will provide the search results on www.live.com, Microsoft’s Windows Live Web site. Following an undefined period of testing, it is anticipated that Windows Live Search will replace the existing search engine that powers MSN.com.

According to Yusuf Medhi, a senior vice president of information services at MSN, the key objective for the new search engine is to give people more control over how they search for information and how they put it to use once they get it. New features include:

  • Support for tabbed Web browsing, which lets people keep several search panes open in a single window.
  • A search slider bar that offers users the ability to control how much information is shown for each result.
  • A “smart scroll” function that displays all search results on one page rather than multiple pages.
  • Different options to view pictures(e.g. as “thumbnail” shots or full-sized images) without leaving the search page.
  • The option for users to save their search parameters as macros that can be run to perform the same search in the future.

Lots of interesting features, but only time will tell whether they will appeal to users. Ultimately, it will be the quality / relevancy of the search results that will determine the long term success of the new search engine, not any of the features touted above.

MSN do need to do something though if they are to catch up. According to figures released by Nielsen/NetRatings Inc, Google ended January with a 48.2% share of the US search market, Yahoo comes in second place with 22.2% and MSN is third with 11% (a slight decrease year on year).

It will be interested to see how Microsoft Live Search is received…