Microsoft has agreed to acquire a company that operates a search engine for health information, one of the most popular search topics online.
The software giant hopes the acquisition of privately held Medstory will improve its health search results and anchor a "broader consumer health strategy", it said at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society conference in New Orleans.
The software giant is keen to take on Google, which has tuned its web search engine to recognise health-related queries and gives users options to refine their results by clicking on links for topics such as treatment, tests, symptoms and causes.
Microsoft's broad plans for Medstory's technology include embedding it in health-related applications and services, using it to improve the search capabilities of the MSN Health & Fitness site and Windows Live Search, a spokesperson said. Microsoft will maintain Medstory's site as a health search portal, she said, declining to say when the deal is expected to close.
Unable to match Google in general web search, Microsoft is focusing on search services for specific audiences and topics, such as health, said analyst Rob Enderle of Enderle Group.
"With Google dominating, the way to carve out parts of the search market is through specialisation," he said. "From the standpoint of [general web] search and the value it provides to its advertising customers, Google is very hard to beat."
Medstory will become part of the recently created Health Solutions Group at Microsoft. Financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.