Yusuf Mehdi speech at Goldman Sachs Internet conference

Yusuf Mehdi, head of Microsoft’s MSN division, spoke yesterday at the Goldman Sachs Internet conference at the Bellagio hotel in Las Vegas. Audio of the speech is available online in Windows Media Audio and RealAudio formats. Some interesting comments on MSN Search throughout the talk. “All of our aspirations…pivot on on Hotmail and Messenger.” Why do you download a toolbar when everyone already has one? For integration into all of the MSN services of course. Search is front and center, but not the primary motivator for the install. MSN Search handles 2 billion queries a day. Over 10 million people have installed the MSN Toolbar. The new search system “will, as far as the consumer is concerned, be an end-to-end system for searching across any data type.” Yusuf admits that search efforts are largely driven from the research group and apply knowledge and product features from across Microsoft. He emphasized that their search efforts are not just focused on Longhorn. Search on your PC for media and files. Search the intranet for specific data just as you would search the Internet. Searching a social network, e-mail, and private subscriptions such as Wall Street Journal. MSN Search has a “very big investment targeting personalization.” There will be less requirements to sign in, and Passport will provide a more behind-the-scenes experiment. MSN already has such features working inside of its MSN Sandbox with features such as MSN Newsbot. During the question and answer session an audience member asked Yusuf how Microsoft can compete for top talent with Yahoo! and Google. Yusef responded that Yahoo! and Google do not have anything close to Microsoft Research and technology talent would love to play with the billions spent in this division every year. I was not very impressed with the answer and was hoping for more information since I have yet to see MSN Search in the Bay Area. It was also interesting that Yusuf focused on Microsoft Research instead of emphasizing the ability of his own staff. [Update: Microsoft has the full transcript online.]