Poor old Microsoft just doesn't seem to be able to settle on a search engine technology. After various attempts, mini-launches and beta test programs, Microsoft has now announced a completely new search engine located at www.live.com. Apparently after beta testing this will replace the existing MSN engine.

No word was given as to the fate of previous search engine tests, but the way I see it, none of the previous incarnations of MS search have offered either better usability or better results than Google.

This new version does at least have the advantage of looking different. MS must have realised that yet another Google clone is not going to work.

The good:
- Scrolling through many results instead of having to flick through pages.
- RSS feeds (although I haven't properly tested this).
- The ability to easily increase or reduce the amount of information shown for each result.

The bad:
- Results I tested were not as relevant as Google, or at least not as consistently relevant. Some were right on target, some were hopelessly irrelevant.

The indifferent:
- MS loves their ability to "save search parameters" so you can repeat searches. This is hardly a radical improvement - you've always been able to do that with most search engines (including our own internal search engine) by bookmarking the page or copying the URL.

A couple of nice usability improvements but not much substance. I see some typical Microsoft PR ploys (trying to make non-features sound impressive, or claiming old ideas as new ones). If they can get the results to be a bit more consistent they may have something worth crowing about.

Bottom line - Cute features aren't a substitute for good results.