Microsoft Buys Powerset

July 1st, 2008 at 12:00 am

microsoft powerset

We’ve written about it and now it’s confirmed.  Microsoft’s plan to buy Powerset has pushed through, today, semantic search engine Powerset joins Microsoft Live Search.

In review, Powerset is a natural-language or semantic search engine that focuses on the intent of the query rather than on the keywords a user includes in the query.  So, as Powerset claims, their search algorithm would get you better results to the questions you ask.

Anyway, let’s just look at it from a point of view that’s more relevant to Microsoft.  The search engine market is dominated by one player, Google.  Yahoo used to compete and was at a comfortable number 2, but the new partnership between Google and Yahoo, there isn’t a ny competition anymore.  So, being promoted to the number 2 spot is Microsoft with their Live Search.  If you were Yahoo it would have been great being number 2 with a market share of about 20%.  However, Microsoft at number 2 means, about 80% for Google (60% plus Yahoo’s share) and 9% for Live Search.  Ok these figures aren’t exact but it’s close and that’s the idea.

Now, how would Powerset help Live search, its market share is just a speck on among the hundreds of other search engines?  Also don’t forget that Powerset is not entirely alone in the semantic search arena, there’s also Hakia among others.

Well, Microsoft hopes that their acquisition of new talents from Powerset would somehow increase their market share.  It’s not impossible and they have optimistic views.

"We’re buying Powerset first and foremost because we’re impressed with the people there. Powerset CTO and cofounder Barney Pell is a visionary and incredible evangelist. When he introduced our senior engineers to some of the most senior people at Powerset — Search engineers and computational linguists like Tim Converse, Chad Walters, Scott Prevost, Lorenzo Thione, and Ron Kaplan — we came away impressed by their smarts, their experience, their passion for search, and a shared vision." [Press Release, MSDN Blog