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Microsoft today unveiled plans to speed up investments in Live Search just days after Google and Yahoo! agreed to an online ads love-in that left Redmond spitting feathers.

The software giant, in a cheap bid to grab a few web clicks, rushed out a press release to tell the world about a new search technology centre (STC) coming soon to Europe.

However, it hasn’t announced where the new hub will be located.

Despite the absence of that, ahem, minor detail, Microsoft was terrifically keen to point out that it has been busy splashing the cash on internet ad investments such as the $1.23bn acquisition of Fast Search & Transfer SA in January this year. Just don’t mention Goo-Hoo!, OK.

Apparently, Microsoft’s second STC (the first one arrived in Beijing, China in October, 2005) will find a home somewhere in Europe in the firm’s 2009 fiscal year - in other words, pop pickers, sometime after 1 July next year. It could be in the UK, Germany, France or even all three, said the company.

By that time - assuming US and European Union regulators don’t crash the party - Yahoo! and Google might well be busily counting the moolah their new ads powerhouse could be pulling in.

Last month, in a desperate attempt to woo people away from Google, Redmond unveiled a new site called "Live Search Cashback".

If you use its Live Search engine to find and purchase certain products, Microsoft will refund between two and 30 per cent of the purchase price. These refunds come straight from Microsoft's product-selling partners. Each refund is equal to the ad fee forked over to Microsoft, and partners only pay if a sale is completed.

So the software multinational, which – according to the latest figures from online tracker comScore – holds less than ten per cent of the global internet search market against Google’s massive 60 per cent chunk, is making no money on this new breed of ad.

Last Thursday Yahoo! terminated all acquisition talks with Microsoft, grumbling that Redmond was only interested in the internet provider's search business.

On the same day Google parachuted in by confirming that it will give Yahoo! access to its AdSense service in the US and Canada. ®

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

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