Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Microsoft’s Powerset Acquisition: Integration By End Of Year

I spoke with Powerset cofounder/CEO Barney Pell and Microsoft’s Live Search General Program Manager Ramez Naam shortly after Microsoft’s announcement of their acquisition of Powerset earlier today.

Microsoft intends to use Powerset’s natural language search
technology as a major differentiating factor v. no. 1 search player
Google (see our recent coverage of Live Search Cashback, a another Microsoft search effort aimed at getting more market share).

TechCrunchIT goes into detail
on how effective Powerset may be as a weapon. But a few things are
clear - the resource limitations (cash and computing resources) that
slowed Powerset’s development are now history. The relevance problem is
less important since Microsoft core search relevance is quite good. And
users really seem to like the beta launch of Powerset even with the limited dataset.

Naam says 5% of searches contain elements of natural language that
keyword based search algorithms don’t handle well, and there’s an
assumption that as better results are returned, more people may start
to simply type a normal sentence instead of a couple of keywords.
Microsoft will integrate at least parts of Powerset technology into
Microsoft Live Search by the end of the year, Naam says. I expect we’ll
be hearing a lot more about natural language search coming out of
Microsoft shortly.

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