Global software titan Microsoft is launching its internet search engine today (Thursday).

Search is currently the fastest growing sector of online activity, and the new service challenges Google, the runaway leader in the field, and its rival Yahoo. Between them the three US companies are certain to command the lion's share of global search engine business.

The Microsoft offering is expected to launch as part of its MSN portal, providing the new venture with ready-made users. So far no plans have been announced for an advertising service linked to search results.

  • Company chairman Bill Gates will also be training his telescope on Microsoft's imminent but long-frustrated entry into the cable TV market.

    The firm's software is going into approximately one million new set-top DVR boxes provided by US cable firm Comcast in Washington State. If the move proves successful Microsoft hopes other cable companies will follow.

    Opines Josh Bernoff of technology consultants Forrester Research: "[Microsoft] have been banging on the doors for about ten years. This is a million people, they are not fooling around."

    Data sourced from Financial Times Online and BBC Online; additional content by WARC staff