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Microsoft Underwhelms With Preview Of Futuristic Ad Technologies

This story was written by Joseph Tartakoff.
Looking for the next "big thing" from Microsoft's adCenter Labs? It certainly wasn't on display at the group's DemoFest, an annual presentation of next-generation online ad technologies that are in the works.

Here's what Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) showed off:

What: A tool that provides gift suggestions based on interests, sex, age and price range, based on product-related searches on Live Search.

Problem: The Internet is already littered with gift-suggestion sites.

What: Microsoft Gaze, a gadget that combines relevant information and ads in a pop-up when a visitor hovers over a key word.
Hover over the words "Celine Dion," for instance, and a gadget pops up that includes both ads as well as links to Celine Dion songs.

Problem: Tests show Gaze extends a user's time on a Web site by 9 percent- but how much of that time is spent trying to get rid of the pop up?

What: Technology that determines whether a searcher has "local intent." Example: Type "Dentist in Seattle," and the results and ads are local.

Problem: Shouldn't this already exist on Live Search?!

What: DIY tool that generates display ads with logos for "mom and pop advertisers" based on basic information they enter.

Problem: Microsoft is late to the gameGoogle (NSDQ: GOOG) launched a similar tool in October.

Asked what the disparate projects said about the company's strategic direction and where the "next big thing" was, General Manager Eric Brill said the projects on display were not representative of the work being done at adCenter Labs (Twenty-one other projects were also set to be shown internally last Wednesday). He then continued on to say that the group was looking at user patterns to be "intimately informed" of customer's needs to figure out what the next "big thing" will be.

"We're making a lot (of progress). It's not user visible but it means the velocity of innovation will go up a lot," Brill said.


By Joseph Tartakoff