updated 9/12/2006 12:58:13 PM ET 2006-09-12T16:58:13

Microsoft Corp. plans Tuesday to officially launch its updated and renamed Internet search engine, the latest step in a massive effort to make headway against market leaders Yahoo Inc. and Google Inc.

Live Search had previously been available in test form and is the successor to MSN Search, Microsoft's current search engine. It ranks a distant third in U.S. popularity after Yahoo and Google, according to the most recent data from Nielsen/Net Ratings.

( is a joint venture of Microsoft and NBC Universal News.)

The release also is part of the software company's push to offer a number of free, Web-based services under its new "Live" brand name. The approach has been aimed at helping the company establish a fresh, separate Internet brand for those services, but it also has confused some users more familiar with the company's traditional MSN Internet branding strategy.

"In general, I don't think a lot of consumers outside of computer enthusiasts ... are aware of Windows Live or know what it is," said Matt Rosoff, independent researcher with Directions on Microsoft.

Microsoft plans to use Live Search on its MSN portal, and it also planning to promote Live Search later this fall. But Rosoff said the company needs to do more — whether it's a massive marketing push or some sort of broader tie-in with other products — to tell uses what Live is, and persuade them to switch from Google and others.

"In the end, users need easy access to Microsoft's search engine," Rosoff said.

Among other changes, Live Search will include improved ways to refine a search engine query so a user can better differentiate whether they are searching, for, say, the jaguar animal, car or Apple Computer Inc. operating system, said Christopher Payne, corporate vice president for Microsoft's Live Search effort.

It also has improved how people can search for and view images, Payne said.

Microsoft on Tuesday also plans to officially launch Live Local Search in the United States and the United Kingdom. The search offering, which has long been available in test form, shows detailed photographic images of some parts of the country based on searches for addresses and places of interest.

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