powerset.pngWe’ve known that Microsoft has some lofty goals to improve their Search, so it was no surprise when they announced today that they have acquired a company called Powerset. Powerset started back in 2005 and they launched their first product, a search and discovery experience for Wikipedia just a couple of months ago. Their goal is “to change the way people interact with technology by enabling computers to understand our language.” If you’ve played around with Powerset before, you know that they’re clearly working to achieve that goal and they’ve already done some great work.

Obviously Microsoft wants Powerset’s technology which leaves us wondering what will become of Powerset as it currently is and if they’ll be able to further develop what they already started. Powerset mentioned the acquisition on their blog and said, “Microsoft shares our goal to improve search through deeper analysis of queries and documents, and understands that our technology and expertise will play a key role in the evolution of search.” They see this as a way for them to move beyond Wikipedia which is the only thing they’ve focused on so far.

On the Live Search blog, they too announced the acquisition of Powerset and highlighted some of the ways in which they’d like to bring search to a higher level. They talked about how when many of us search for something, it takes several tries before we get the results that we want because of two specific problems:

  • Problem #1 – Differences in phrasing or context between a user’s search and the way the same information is expressed on webpages
  • Problem #2 – Lack of clarity in the descriptions for each webpage in the search results

Together with Powerset, Microsoft is hoping that they will be able to solve those problems to improve Live Search so that when someone searches for something, they will get their answer the first time around and with just one click. Searching would become more natural.

Now here’s an interesting aspect of this whole situation. About two weeks ago, Powerset released an iPhone optimized version of its “Wikipedia Search & Browse.” In the announcement they talked about how over 1/3 of the company owns an iPhone which is partly why they decided to make an iPhone optimized version. Will Microsoft allow them to continue to make it available or will they insist that a Windows Mobile version be created instead?