By Jim Hu and Mike Ricciuti
Staff Writers, CNET News.com
Microsoft's path to expand the Windows empire is leading directly to
search king Google.
The software company this month quietly launched a new search program
called MSNBot, which scours the Web to build an index of HTML links
and documents. The homegrown system -- which performs robot functions
previously left to Inktomi and other partners -- may pose a
significant threat to Google if Microsoft fulfills its promise to make
the program a cornerstone of its overall PC and services strategies.
MSNBot is believed to be the first step in a multiyear plan to build
new search technology that bridges Microsoft's home and business
customers. Company executives hope the program will eventually prove
to be the elusive technology that binds its various Web sites,
applications and, of course, the dominant Windows operating system.
Microsoft could then connect the search engine of its MSN portal to
new file technology planned for the next version of Windows,
code-named Longhorn, which will make it easier to search e-mail,
spreadsheets and documents on PCs, corporate networks and the Web.
The result would be a powerful technology reaching from the desktop to
the greater Internet that could displace Google as the Web's leading