WSJ has already a small review
of the new MSN search engine and explains why it isn't as good as Google (yet).
Microsoft claims its new search engine is fast and robust, and is based in part on research the company has done for years on helping computers parse human language. At launch, the MSN beta will feature an index of more than five billion pages, more than the 4.3 billion pages Google has recently been claiming it indexes. But Google isn't standing still, and it has suddenly upped its index to more than eight billion pages, a staggering total.
--- Just today it was mentioned that Google's index has reached the 10 billion pages mark. Still, there are some good reasons to belief that MSN Search will cause some serious headache for Google in future: ---
The best thing about the new MSN Search is a set of features absent from Google. Especially nice is the ability to get actual answers -- not just Web links -- when you enter fact-based queries. Microsoft draws these answers from its Encarta encyclopedia, including lots of material that was formerly provided only to paid subscribers.
For instance, I typed "birth of Lincoln" into MSN, and was given his birth date on top of the usual long list of Web results. The same query typed into Google yielded no direct information, and the first few Google results pertained to birth control and maternity services in Lincoln, Neb.
I also got quick answers from MSN to questions like "population of Copenhagen," "what is an arthropod?" and "GDP of Bulgaria."
Searching for music is also much better in MSN. I typed in "Rolling Stones" and was able to click on, and hear, previews of several Stones songs right from the search result. I was also able to go directly to a page in the MSN music store where I could buy the songs.
The bottom line: Google is still my search service of choice, but Microsoft has arrived in search and will be a more and more attractive alternative.