Though there was no specific date given, the MSN Search team appeared to be seriously determined to have a fully-baked search engine before the end of this year. This does not mean that the soon-to-be-launched new MSN Search will contain the full spectrum of features and facilities that are being developed right now, but that upon launch the new search engine will be able to stand up on its own when compared to its closest competitors (Google, Yahoo).
I would like to suggest here that the community may well find that MS understands the value of things like "focus groups" much better than some other search enterprises. For example, you may find that search becomes one of the areas in which msdn webcasts addresses. Sort of like "search champs" in a more accessible model.
MS is also in a position to do things like putting a "search tutorial" on the desktop explaining search techniques to the non-technical user. Boolean and exact phrase searches are a great thing, for the few who know how to use it. The use of these facilities could be greatly expanded through user education efforts and MS is in a position to do that.
I would like to suggest here that the community may well find that MS understands the value of things like "focus groups" much better than some other search enterprises.
MSN is throwing buckets of money on tapping brains from around the world. They are flying two of us from Australia (and many other nations) soon. While not Search Champs, it is another part of MSN. I hazard a guess that Search is only a part of Something Big Coming.