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Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer is expected to outline on Wednesday what's in store for a re-branded version of his company's laggard search service, Live Search.

Ballmer will take the stage at Microsoft's regular Valued Professional (MVP) summit, to discuss search, according to MVPs attending the summit.

The news came as Powerset co-founder turned Microsoft search strategist and evangelist Barney Pell reportedly Twittered from the conference that new features are due to accompany an upcoming re-branded Live Search. Pell's Powerset was a natural-language search company acquired by Microsoft last July for a reported $100m.

It's not clear what search changes new features are planned. But there has been plenty of discussion, as people claimed to identify new elements popping up in Live Search.

Powerset would certainly add something new to the mix: the ability to pull back results based on meaning, as opposed to the Google model of most popular searches.

As for branding - it's been a long time coming and would fit into a long tradition of Microsoft confusing brand and image with actual product. Kumo.com is the new name du jour for Live Search.

Last time this idea was kicked about, Kumo was owned by Dascar Samira Facendo of Venezuela, who is also owner of the edu.edu domain, which he has held since 1989.

A search of Register.com reveals Microsoft now owns the Kumo domain name.

A switch would have interesting repercussions of Microsoft's whole "Live" naming strategy. The question would be whether just Live Search changes or whether other services also branded "Live" also switch over to Kumo. Also, any change would - in Microsoft's mind at least - separate the Windows desktop and server franchise from its online activities.

The mental contortions have a precedent. Last time Microsoft did this was on .NET in the early 2000s, when tools, programming frameworks, and servers all had ".NET" affixed to their name only for Microsoft to then ratchet back, saying it had gone too far. ®

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