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Searching for answers, Microsoft set to intro "Kumo" search engine

In the market for yet another way to navigate cyberspace? Just days after physicist Stephan Wolfram took his Wolfram|Alpha "computational knowledge engine" live, word is that Microsoft next week will debut a revamped version of its flagging Live.com search engine, the No. 3 Web navigator behind Google and Yahoo.

Microsoft will take the wraps off of "Kumo"—the codename of its new, improved search engine—at the D: All Things Digital technology conference next week in Carlsbad, Calif., the Wall Street Journal reports. (Here's a low-res image of the new search engine, that CNET ran and reports was captured by someone who stumbled across it online while using Microsoft Live Search in the Internet Explorer 8 browser. It looks very different than the Live.com search results page pictured to the left.)

Microsoft declined to comment on the buzz but in March acknowledged that it was testing a new search engine dubbed "Kumo" that used the semantic—or natural language—search technology Microsoft acquired when it purchased San Francisco-based Powerset last August (for an undisclosed amount). Powerset is best known for developing a search engine specifically designed for querying Wikipedia using keywords, phrases or questions.

Microsoft in December filed a trademark application for the name "Kumo" and related URLs, including kumosearch.com, kumopics.com, kumowiki.com, kumogroups.com and kumotravel.com, according to IDG News Service. Microsoft has offered a search engine since 1998, when it launched MSN Search for the company's Microsoft Network portal, which was renamed Windows Live three years ago. In its early years MSN Search relied on search engine software from Inktomi Corp. (until it was bought by Yahoo in 2002).

The company has been angling to upgrade its position in the search engine market: comScore, Inc., a Reston, Va.-based Web activity tracker, reports that Microsoft garnered a mere 8.2 percent slice (1.2 billion) of 14.8 billion U.S.-based search engine queries last month, running a distant third behind Google, which grabbed 64.2 percent (9.5 billion), and Yahoo, which claimed 20.4 percent (3 billion) of the traffic. An interesting article on how the search engines stack up can be found on Seobook.com.

Image of Microsoft Live Search © Microsoft Corp.

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