Bill Gates may have made billions out of PCs and the phenomenal growth of the internet, but he is facing one of his biggest challenges yet - persuading web users that his internet business MSN has the best search engine on the net.

When it launched last week, MSN Search was late to the market. Although there are already several successful search engines, Gates has ambitious plans to establish it as the number-one search engine by toppling dotcom high flyer Google from its throne.

Changing consumer habits will be no easy task. Google has established itself as the world's leading search brand, with more than 16m people in the UK using it every month. Last week it exceeded the most optimistic financial forecasts by reporting fourth-quarter profits of $204m (£108.4m), making it the world's highest-value internet stock.

Microsoft is preparing to unleash its marketing firepower to support a high-visibility strategy intended to ensure MSN Search is on the lips of all internet users. In the UK, as revealed in Marketing last week, Microsoft is planning its first TV ads for four years to promote the engine and is also running an equally high-profile online ad campaign funded by its biggest ever spend.

Julian Smith, online advertising analyst at Jupiter Research, says a high-profile marketing approach is crucial for MSN Search: 'It will have to splash out on marketing. Because, beyond the internet industry, there's little knowledge of MSN Search, so it will be the only effective way of poaching Google users.'

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