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Microsoft said it will soon offer a search engine that is better, faster and more curious than previous versions.

The beta version debuts at Microsoft’s on March 8. The beta, and a revision expected in a few months, will challenge market leader Google, said Microsoft Search Senior Product Manager Justin Osmer.

Microsoft also expects to soon release an updated version of and a Windows Live Toolbar beta on March 8.

Read more here about what Google is up to.

The search engine has high expectations, and arrives at a time when search market leader Google appears to be vulnerable to challenges after several financial hiccups as the Internet search market continues to grow rapidly.

Also, at a recent public appearance, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates promised a search engine from Microsoft that “more than matches” Google’s.

“To say we’ll get to overall number one in a few months is a bit bold,” Microsoft Search’s Osmer said during an interview. “But, maybe we’ll be number one in some market metrics.”

Osmer said local search and relevancy, a measure of the sharpness of a search engine’s results, are areas Microsoft could soon lead.

Read more here about what Yahoo and others are doing in search.

Most noteworthy of the changes is the addition of Microsoft’s own picture and video search technology.

Microsoft had been using technology from Picsearch, based in Stockholm, Sweden, to do the video search dirty work in the past.

Picsearch’s technology will soon only be found on, Microsoft’s popular portal which is meant to ultimately replace.

Other changes to expect include a sliding scale on how much of a Web page to reveal, a smart scroll feature for showing all search results on a single page and a sharper video search feature as a result of the technology switch out.

The new search engine also scours more stuff, including search, news search, RSS feeds, e-mail search, local search and searching of MSN Shopping and MSN Spaces.

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