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Microsoft Unveils Search Beta

As expected, Microsoft unveiled the beta version of its own search engine, dubbed MSN Search, early Thursday, but did not include some anticipated tools, such as desktop search, that would make it a tougher competitor for rival Google.

The new engine, available here -- not on MSN itself, and so relatively out of the public eye -- accesses more than five billion pages that Microsoft has indexed using its own spiders, offers natural language searching, and includes a tool to provide results based on the user's location.

Although some experts speculated that Microsoft might include a desktop search tool, the beta did not include a feature to dig through files on the PC's local drive. Google last month released a beta version of its Desktop Search, the first blast in the desktop battle between the giants.

The engine debuted Thursday in 26 markets and in 11 languages, said Microsoft.

MSN Search does include some anticipated features, such as a series of three sliders that let users personalize result rankings by setting the degree of match between the user's search terms and the results, the popularity of the page, and the "freshness" of the results.

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