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Microsoft's New Search Czar Outlines Strategy

Microsoft is lagging far behind Google and Yahoo, but it's trying to close the gap.

For example, Microsoft recently integrated specialized medical search acquired from Medstory earlier this year into its MSN Health and Fitness portal and has instituted features in Live Search similar to Google's OneBoxes that will do things like bring up real-time road conditions upon a query for something like "Seattle traffic." "Who said an edit box and 10 blue links is what search is?" comments Nadella.

Video search stands to be another place Microsoft thinks it can gain, even in the face of Google's recent $1.65 billion acquisition of YouTube. Nadella says the opportunity is there because until now, video search has mostly dealt with searching through tags of metadata about videos. Though he doesn't say, he could be tipping his hand to technology that analyzes and searches the audio stream of a video. "Video is going to be big. There's a lot of work we're going to put into our video search on our roadmap," Nadella says, adding that announcements are coming this fall.

Microsoft is interested in crawling the deep Web in areas currently un-indexed by search engines because of complex file formats and a lack of links. There's work to be done in natural language processing to make Microsoft better at processing long queries. And the possibility of embedding Web search into future versions of SharePoint so that business users have easy access to Microsoft search technology. Other goals include figuring out how to use tag clouds on a large scale, opening up Microsoft's search API in new ways and automatically personalizing " though retaining options for user control " the search experience so that results differ some for each individual or to auto-populate tabs and feeds like in iGoogle.

There's innovation to be had, and market share to be gained. "The idea of search being mature is not the case," Nadella says. Still, with the Google juggernaut in the way, and Microsoft's rocky history in search, any climb will likely be long and arduous.

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