Microsoft appoints head of new commercial-search unit

CEO of recently-acquired firm to take helm

Microsoft has appointed former Multimap CEO Jeff Kelisky to be the general manager of a new business unit focused on commercial search.

Kelisky will head up Microsoft's efforts to tune its search engine to focus on searches for commercial products.

"They're going to focus on people looking for something to buy," says Matt Rosoff, an analyst with Microsoft specialist analyst firm Directions on Microsoft. He says the new unit will be a part of Microsoft's larger Search Business Group, the general manager of which is Brad Goldberg.

Rosoff adds that Satya Nadella, senior vice president of search and portal advertising at Microsoft, has been discussing the company's commercial-search strategy since early this year as a way to gain ground on Google.

He says Microsoft realised it couldn't take Google on at its own game, which is to index all of the information available on the internet. "They had to limit their scope, and this is where they're going to start," Rosoff says.

Indeed, on a conference call to discuss its fiscal 2008 financial results in July, Microsoft CFO and expat New Zealander Chris Liddell said that commercial search would be a major area of focus for the company, and it would use much of the hundreds of millions of investment dollars it plans to pour into its online business in the current fiscal year into this effort.

Microsoft's Live Search cashback plan will now be under Kelisky's care. Launched in May, cashback is a comparative shopping feature in Microsoft's Live Search that offers consumers rebates on purchases of products found through the search engine. It's aimed at luring consumers away from Google and Yahoo.

MSN's shopping site, Microsoft's online mapping and its Virtual Earth service also will be part of the commercial search unit.

Kelisky joined Microsoft in December when it bought his former company, UK-based mapping and location-based services site Multimap.

He was chosen to run the effort in part because he understands "how navigation relates to search, local services, businesses and mobile," Goldberg said in a statement.