As expected, Microsoft unveiled the beta version of its own search engine, dubbed MSN Search, early Thursday, but did not include some anticipated tools, such as desktop search, that would make it a tougher competitor for rival Google.

The new engine, available here -- not on MSN itself, and so relatively out of the public eye -- accesses more than five billion pages that Microsoft has indexed using its own spiders, offers natural language searching, and includes a tool to provide results based on the user's location.

Although some experts speculated that Microsoft might include a desktop search tool, the beta did not include a feature to dig through files on the PC's local drive. Google last month released a beta version of its Desktop Search, the first blast in the desktop battle between the giants.

The engine debuted Thursday in 26 markets and in 11 languages, said Microsoft.

MSN Search does include some anticipated features, such as a series of three sliders that let users personalize result rankings by setting the degree of match between the user's search terms and the results, the popularity of the page, and the "freshness" of the results.

However, while Microsoft has been promising the integration of MSN Search within MSN by the end of the year, it now appears that the date has been pushed back into early 2005. When Microsoft makes the switch, it will drop Yahoo, which currently provides search results for the portal.

No matter when it finally shows up, MSN Search isn't a "Google killer," search experts said.

"Rightly or wrongly, many people automatically turn to Google for search, and Microsoft will have to do much more than simply launch this initial foray to change the searching behavior of the masses," said SearchEngineWatch.com's Chris Sherman in a statement.

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