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Report: Microsoft to Buy Powerset

VentureBeat on Thursday reported that Microsoft had agreed to buy Powerset, a so-called "semantic search engine," for slightly more than $100 million. However, the report has yet to be corroborated. VentureBeat says an announcement isn't expected until next month.

So what's "semantic search"? According to the VB report, the technology attempts to understand the full meaning of phrases you type in while searching, returning results based on a more comprehensive understanding of what you typed in the search box. By comparison, Google's search results are based on individual words, an approach that does little to understand the meaning of phrases.

This is where Powerset sees an opportunity, but Google has been dismissive of the approach, referring to the technology as only "marginally interesting" because natural language search is actually very difficult to pull off, technologically speaking. That said, the search king has hired semantic specialists to tinker with semantic search -- just in case it really is the next big thing.

Correction: Yesterday's column cited an incorrect publication source for the second item -- an oversight that we've since corrected.

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