Microsoft reported Tuesday that it will open a Search Technology Center in Europe as the software company stepped up its effort to catch Google in online searching capability.
The new center will be "designed to help accelerate Microsoft's investments in Live Search and disrupt the search and advertising marketplace to the benefit of both the consumer and the advertiser in line with Microsoft's recent announcement in the U.S. of Live Search cashback," the company said in a release.
"Success in search in Europe is paramount, and we see the investment in this new Search Technology Center as an important step in doubling down our long-term investments," said Kevin Johnson, Microsoft's president of the Platforms and Services Division, in a statement.
The company has not decided on a location for the new facility, but hopes to have it open in its fiscal year ending June 30, 2009. Microsoft noted that it acquired Norway-headquartered Fast Search and Transfer in January.
Stephen Arnold, managing director of Arnold IT and the author of several books on online searching, said the move, as outlined in its release, "doesn't make any sense to me" and added that the pace of rolling out the STC seems "leisurely" given the intensity of Microsoft's battle with Google.
"Microsoft appears not to be going to rely on Fast's Web crawling and indexing system, which is scalable and can compete with Google," said Arnold. "Fast has big brains in search and it doesn't make any sense not to make big use of them." Arnold said Fast's AllTheWeb.com site, which it sold to Overture and was sold again to Yahoo, was arguably the only serious challenger to Google years ago; he noted that Fast held onto important rights to use the technology it sold to Overture.
"One big question remains unanswered: Why not turn to Fast Search, a company that successfully challenged Google for Web search," Arnold asked?
Microsoft said the European STC would be modeled on its STC facility in Beijing and will work with Microsoft's global Live Search organization. The European STC will likely assign engineers to be placed in multiple countries.
"Searchers have different expectations and experiences in every geography in the world," said Satya Nadella, senior VP of Microsoft's Search, Portal and Advertising Group, "so we believe it is critical to make deep investments in physical locations in multiple markets to ensure that we're applying the best local expertise to our research and development efforts."
Microsoft said the move to create the European STC is in line with its advertising investments, including its expansion of the DRIVEpm media network in additional European countries.
"Today Microsoft has 68% reach to Internet users throughout Europe through our online assets and strengths in display advertising," said Johnson. "However, we're not yet where we'd like to be in search in this critical geography."