During the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference 2005, Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer stressed the importance of search and the pace of innovation within the search engine space.

ALLISON WATSON: All right, with the recent enhancement in MSN.com search capabilities and the search-centric focus of the soon to be launched Windows “Longhorn” product, what is your view on the significance of index search and retrieval across the Microsoft family of products?

STEVE BALLMER: Thanks, Justin, for the question, and the answer is super, super important. Super important.

Now, if you ask one area where I really think you’ll see extra innovation and investment and drive, it really is in information organization, search and retrieval. That will be an area that we really push ourselves. We’ll push ourselves at the desktop, we’ll push ourselves at the corporate network level, we’ll push ourselves out in the Internet. We launched our first MSN Search product based on our own search technologies. In SharePoint Portal we’re pushing the search technologies. In “Longhorn” it’s not just about search, it’s about changing the way you manage and organize information that’s interesting to you. In our new portal technologies it’s about changing the way you manage and find information that is interesting to you.

Interesting to see how close Ballmer’s reply resembles Google’s mission statement. “Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” Although late to the game, Microsoft is dedicating so many resources to search and I wouldn’t be surprised to see MSN gaining marketshare rapidly as new features keep getting released.

Ballmer believes that current search engines are still not accurate enough for users.

The accuracy of results that people get back when they do searches today is still not very good. Try doing a search on Bill Gates. Do it on MSN, do it on Google, do it on Yahoo!, do it wherever you like. The truth of the matter is not only do you get some things that are actually interesting about a guy I work with, you get everything that has to do with any gates, the gates at Buckingham Palace, the bill for the last party that Dennis Kozlowski had, you get all these links back when you type in Bill Gates into the average search engine.

Ballmer and Microsoft are very serious about winning this space.

Believe me, the world can and will do a lot better job in helping people find, navigate and organize the information of the world, and our company is dedicated to being the leader at that, if it takes us one year or two years or three years. We’re the leader today in the corporate environment, we’ve got the leading desktop search product out today. We’re not the leader out on the Internet today.

But just as we were serious about innovation with past competitors, we’re very serious about innovating with and in a way that puts us way in front of Yahoo! and of Google.

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