REDMOND. Washington: Microsoft has announced a 'cash-back' offer that will remunerate consumers who buy goods found via its online search service. 

Customers who make purchases from participating retailers after searching for an item and clicking on an ad will receive a cash rebate via an online Microsoft account.

The software titan's Live Search service includes 10 million products from 700 merchants, at least thirteen of which are in the US top forty.

The rebates are offered as a percentage of the purchase price, for example 5% back on a $60 (€38; £30) coffee-maker or 2% on a $120 digital camera.

The new service is Microsoft's latest attempt to make inroads on Google's dominance of the lucrative search market. Google saw its April share rise to 61.6% from 56.1% in the year earlier period.

Microsoft's sites, on the other hand, captured just 9.1% of the US search market, roughly flat from April 2007, according to researcher comScore.

A number of options will be available for merchants to buy ads from Microsoft, including paying only when a customer completes a sale.

Declared the software giant's chairman and co-founder Bill Gates: "Live Search cashback will help advertisers drive more online sales while giving consumers a new way to stretch their dollars."

  • Meantime, Microsoft has gained cautious approval from the European Commission with a plan to make its Office Suite file document-storing format compatible with that of rivals.

    Its Office Open XML file format will work with the OpenDocument Format supported by Sun Microsystems, IBM and others.

    Since 2004 the EC has fined Microsoft €1.68 billion, primarily for its failure to provide proper interoperability between its dominant Windows operating system and other software.

    A spokesman said the commission would "investigate whether the announced support of OpenDocument Format in Office leads to better interoperability and allows consumers to process and exchange their documents with the software product of their choice."

  • Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff