Microsoft Corp. on Monday invited advertisers to enroll in the U.S. pilot of AdCenter, an automated system for advertising on MSN Search.
The Redmond, Wash., company offered a three-hour window starting at 9 a.m. Eastern time for advertisers to join the beta program launched last year in the United States following testing in France and Singapore. Microsoft in the U.S. sign up charged a $5 one-time fee.
AdCenter, expected to launch this summer, is Microsoft's answer to Google's AdWords, which is the platform for the search engine's leading, multi-billion dollar advertising business. AdCenter is a self-service system that will eventually cover all forms of advertising offered on Microsoft's MSN portal, including branded displays, paid search, email marketing and other services. Microsoft plans to eventually allow MSN advertisers to go beyond a browser and PC to mobile devices and Internet-based television, called IPTV.
Microsoft has acknowledged that it was late in entering the advertising market related to online search. Tying sponsored links to search results has been the underpinning of Google's success.
To catch up with search powerhouse, however, Microsoft will need to improve on its consistent third-place standing in search behind Google and Yahoo Inc. In January, Google upped its share of the market by more than 1 percent to 48.2 percent, accord to Nielsen/NetRatings. Yahoo's share increased 1 percent to 22.2 percent, and MSN saw a 1.8 percent drop to 11 percent.