Microsoft redesigns MSN Search page

Microsoft has redesigned the MSN Search page in anticipation of imminent Live rebranding.

Microsoft this week redesigned the home page for MSN Search to give it a similar look other services under its "Live" brand. The move is in anticipation of MSN Search's imminent name change to Windows Live Search, a company spokesman said Friday.

"We're definitely heading in that direction to get ready for the transition," said Justin Osmer, an MSN product manager at Microsoft.

Microsoft expects to formally rebrand MSN Search to Windows Live Search before the end of June, but still does not have a definite time frame for this change, he said.

Microsoft also has been tweaking the algorithms of MSN Search to improve the relevancy of searches users make, though this week's redesign is not tied to any particular milestone in the development of search technology, Osmer said. Relevancy refers to how a search engine gives users query results that are of most interest to them highest on the results page.

The new MSN Search page, which can be found at http://search.msn.com/, now consists of a simple search bar in the middle of the page, surrounded by white space. The font and design of the words on the page and the bar are the same as what is found on http://live.com, the home of Microsoft's Windows Live beta.

Windows Live is a personalized home page service that allows users to populate a Web page with Web-based services and content, such as e-mail, news headlines and other mini-applications Microsoft calls Gadgets that provide information from the Web.

Microsoft already rebranded another former MSN Search product, MSN Virtual Earth, with the Windows Live moniker. That service is now called Windows Live Local.

Microsoft has tweaked the branding of its MSN products since November 2005 when it introduced the new Live brand for a set of Web-based services, some of which -- like Windows Live and a small-business product, Office Live -- are in beta now.

These changes have led many to believe the company eventually will drop the MSN brand altogether at some point in the future, but Microsoft so far has not said this will happen. Instead, executives have said Microsoft plans to offer more Web-based content such as entertainment and video through the MSN brand and www.msn.com portal, while leaving Web-based services such as e-mail and search to the Live brand.

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