Seeking to narrow the gap with Google, Microsoft unveiled an updated Web search service that aims to deliver more relevant results and combines text, video and other information onto a single page.
Microsoft said Windows Live search (http://www.live.com)is now on an even technology footing with offerings from rival search engines after years of playing catch-up since it started developing its own Web search in 2003.
Its new presentation is in line with an industry trend to step beyond traditional text links, with unified search results that offer Web sites, news, pictures and video on one page.
Rivals Google and Ask.com made similar changes this year, and Yahoo is moving in that direction.
Google is Microsoft'smain rivals, using its Web ad money to invest in threats to Microsoft's core desktop software business by offering Web-delivered software as a "service."
Last quarter, Google earned net income of $925 million, almost entirely from ads. That lagged Microsoft's $3 billion overall profit, but Microsoft online services business posted a loss and the unit's revenue grew at a third of Google's pace.
Microsoft ranks a distant third in Web search, with just 11.3 percent of the U.S. search market in August versus 56.5 percent for Google and 23.3 percent for Yahoo, according to research firm ComScore.
Satya Nadella, Microsoft's corporate vice president in the search and advertising platform group, said its first challenge was to get current users to do more searches on Windows Live.
"The first step was to have a credible product," said Nadella, who joined the search team six months ago. "Google has been ahead of us and we believe with this release we've caught up and we can compete effectively in terms of search quality."
Microsoft said it broadened the coverage, quadrupling the size of its searchable index over the last year. It has also worked to improve the core algorithm behind its search engine and better decipher the intent of a query.
The Redmond, Washington-based company also focused on improving four specific areas of search: entertainment, health, shopping and local. Those four segments account for about 40 percent of all searches, according to Microsoft.
For example, a search for "Justin Timberlake" yields news, videos, images and even the "buzz" ranking of the singer versus other celebrities. For shoppers, Windows Live will aggregate reviews, prices and other information about a product.
Microsoft is just the latest company to expand search from a series of text links to a more multimedia offering.