Microsoft Will Pay You To Be Their Friend

Microsoft can't get any traction in the search engine world. Their Live Search utility is mired in single-digit user percentage, and their attempt to vault into a distant but respectable second place by purchasing Yahoo! was rebuffed. They're nothing if not tenacious over at Redmond, and they've got another idea to get you to search with them: They'll pay you.

Microsoft's "Live Search cashback" site, set to be unveiled Wednesday, promises to pay back a portion of the purchase price -- ranging from about 2 percent to more than 30 percent -- to people who use it to find designated products and buy them online from participating retailers.

The company has signed up a long list of merchants to participate in the program - including the online sites of large retailers such as Barnes & Noble, Sears, Home Depot, J&R Electronics, Office Depot and others.

The company is expected to unveil the Live Search cashback program at a conference in Redmond where Bill Gates will be speaking to online advertisers. Microsoft last weekend said there would be a major search announcement but declined to provide specifics. A Microsoft spokesman declined to comment Tuesday evening.

Microsoft bought a company called Jellyfish last year that specialized in giving users of their service a cashback incentive, so this attempt to leverage their deep pockets into a higher search market share isn't a spur of the moment idea. Perhaps the Yahoo! takeover was part of a strategy to gain a ready-made search audience and then offer them the cash-back secenario to compete with the big dog: Google. In any case, Microsoft is pressing forward. Psst. Buddy. Wanna make some money? Buy stuff and get your own money back. Maybe Ballmer should join Amway and learn Multi-Level-Marketing and get it over with.