Some interesting tidbits from Safa Rashtchy’s just published note on MSN Search:
We view the new MSN search engine similar to replacing the engine inside of a car, which was previously powered by Yahoo’s Inktomi. A better engine, even a far better engine, will only be one component (a necessary first component) in convincing people to buy a car that was previously not very popular. This is not a move that will give MSN a big market-share gain; instead, it’s a first step to stop the market share loss that MSN Search was experiencing. A new search engine was an absolute strategic necessity, but the hard work comes after the engine is perfected and fully launched to the entire population of MSN. This will include positioning not only the search site, but also MSN itself to customers, as a better web experience than Google. We note that consumer’s loyalty to Google is not just based on search accuracy but on a much deeper brand devotion. MSN’s desktop search effort may well be its most promising initiative as it’s potentially an advantage given that Microsoft has deep knowledge of the desktop file structure and applications, as well as the core expertise of Microsoft’s desktop group. The desktop search may well turn out to be the way MSN eventually gains market share, at least in certain segments of the population – most notably among information workers. This may still leave a potentially larger segment, Middle America, to the competition.
So far the full text is not on the site, sorry, it was emailed to me as a PDF.