Microsoft Live Search has just launched a major update, their biggest update since their debut in January 2005. The reformed search engine is supposed to be faster, more relevant and easier to use. Instead it looks like not much has changed and the need for Microsoft to catch up with Google, Yahoo! and even Ask is painfully obvious. An official post on the Live Search Blog claims that Microsoft listened to feedback on the blog, analysed their search data and spoke to thousands of users in order to deliver a cutting edge search product. Their efforts were focused on reducing page load times, streamlining the look and feel, providing more high-interest content in the video, local, entertainment, shopping, and health verticals and relevance – improving the ranking algorithm, stop-word handling and auto-spell correction. “With this update to Live Search, our engineering focus is on the areas that matter most to our 185 million consumers who use our service every month,” said Satya Nadella, corporate vice president of the Search and Advertising Platform Group at Microsoft. “With the core platform in place we intend to win customers and earn their loyalty one query at a time.” Comparing the new Live Search with Ask.com’s brilliant new interface immediately brings to light how far behind Microsoft actually are: Searching for the artist ‘Madonna’ on Live Search produces a page with a feature similar to the Google / Yahoo! OneBox. Searches for entertainers bring back a Celebrity xRank, up to 4 images and quick links to view videos, news and other snippets of relevant information. Clicking on the xRank links brings users to the following page: Video search is a bit more impressive. Users can actually preview the results within the same window by simply moving the mouse over the image. Generic product searches deliver a page with images of four products with average user ratings, the product names and price ranges below each item. Searches for specific products or brands result in a page with details such as user reviews at a glance, average user ratings, a product image, description and price range and a link to buy it on MSN Shopping. Microsoft is open to feedback on the design of their new search results pages. Alongside each new feature a pair of links allows users to vote on whether they found it useful or not. The bottom of the page includes a link to provide feedback and search results that include semantic variations of the query include an option to search with only the exact query string. Individual enhancements on the new Live Search might be very well thought out, but the experience does not yet give the effect of seamlessness that Google’s Universal Search or Ask.com currently give their users. Live Search still needs to master the ability to provide users a variety of relevant results within the page, rather than just the OneBox.