Last week, Microsoft identified the object of its latest obsession: Google, the No. 1 Internet search page. (Google, you may recall, is preparing for an initial stock offering with an estimated value of $25 billion. Nobody bats around numbers like that without attracting Microsoft's attention.)
For years, Microsoft's own Web search page, MSN Search, has finished a distant third place in the search-engine popularity wars (behind Google and Yahoo). The company's new plan is apparently to remake MSN Search in Google's image.
The Googlification of MSN will occur in two phases. The first, a cosmetic makeover, is now complete and ready for your inspection at www.search.msn.com. The new look consists of an empty white screen that loads blissfully quickly, even over dial-up connections, and an empty, neatly centered text box where you're supposed to type in what you're looking for. The search page is ad-free and, except for the MSN logo, even devoid of graphics. (On July 4, however, MSN added a waving-flag graphic, an imitation of the way Google's witty artists dress up its own logo on holidays.) In short, MSN Search couldn't look more like Google if you photocopied it.