Posted July 1, 2008 2:48 pm by with 13 comments

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Breaking news from Microsoft

We’re excited to announce that we’ve reached an agreement to acquire Powerset, a San Francisco-based search and natural language company.

Powerset will join our core Search Relevance team, remaining intact in San Francisco. Powerset brings with it natural language technology that nicely complements other natural language processing technologies we have in Microsoft Research.

More importantly, Powerset brings to Live Search a set of talented engineers and computational linguists in downtown San Francisco. This is a great team with a wide range of experience from other search engines and research organizations like PARC (formerly Xerox PARC).

Powerset explains on its blog, why they decided to sell to Microsoft…

…building a large-scale semantic search engine is expensive, requiring an engineering effort and computing resources beyond what most start-ups could ever imagine. Because our goals around improving search align so well, Powerset has decided to team up with Microsoft. We believe that this is the fastest way to bring our technology to market at a large scale.

The company also explains that the deal will help answer the questions asked about its ability to scale…

The biggest feedback that we got when we launched our first product was: this is great, but when and how will we get Powerset go beyond Wikpiedia?  Microsoft accelerates our ability to move Powerset to the entire web faster than anyone could have imagined.

No financial details at this time and no word on how long it will take Microsoft to blend Powerset’s semantic technology with Live Search, other than to expect announcements “in the coming months.”

I’ve already had my say on the deal, what do you think?

  • Another dumb acquisition. Do companies even look at what they are buying before do so? Has anyone tried Powerset? The results for natural language searches are not fantastic at all, in fact are very poor IMHO.

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  • eugeniu

    well definately based on their search results is worthless . but who knows what’s inside , wikipedia is very small compared to all www so maybe the algorithm and people who work on it are worth it. guess will see this in the future .

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  • Again, feels like a portfolio acquisition for Microsoft. I wouldn’t go as far as labeling it ‘dumb’, although I don’t think we can make any pertinent comment before knowing the financial details – maybe the engineering brainpower alone is worth the bill.

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  • shows how desperate M’Soft is – they wuld be better of being added wikipedia than powesoft.

  • Maybe this will urge Google to explore natural language further. I’d like to see Hakia get purchased or at least get more credibility than it’s getting.

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  • Well, I’d never heard of that “search engine” prior to this article. Can’t say I’d ever use it more than the single search I did. Wouldn’t I just use wikipedia search?

    Maybe their algorithms are wonderful, haven’t tried any patent searches related to people involved in the company. Hugh? MSFT must know what they’re doing though…

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  • So Microsoft doesn’t want to give up, but I’d say that the power of the SE’s brand influences popularity among users even better than good SERP.

  • Good for MicroSoft that something is working out!

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  • At least they got enough money.

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  • I agree Keylogger Guy. I never go to Live, and rarely use yahoo for search. A lot of money could be spent on brand recognition by microsoft rather than working on their SERP.

    You get decent results from Live, it’s just the look of it is very… well…? It just doesn’t look that good.

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  • Anything that gets someone closer to Google in the search business is good for everyone. Even if it is the “so sue me” guys over at MS. Consumers and webmasters need more choice in the search arena.

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