Wait... What's that? Want a little more than that for your mouse click?

OK, let's take a closer look at what Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) new and improved search engine really means.

First off, let us scoff at the notion that this is a Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) killer. It's not. Don't get me wrong: The new MSN search seems decent, especially for a beta, but Google's got, for now, a teflon brand and a history of innovation that will keep it chugging along quite nicely. Of course, that doesn't mean the stock is worth the current ridiculous price, but I digress. (Click here for a look at a Google valuation.)

To get back to what MSN's new search means, start by thinking of ad dollars. As Foolish paid-search fan Rick Munarriz has pointed out many times, this is a big business, with plenty of room to grow. Search-based advertising revenues have kept shareholders at Google,, and Yahoo! (NASDAQ:YHOO), giddy if not gilded.

Still, Microsoft's trailing year sales are $38 billion. Even if it could steal away every bit of Yahoo!'s and Google's revenues over the past 12 months -- something that clearly ain't gonna happen -- that would only add another 15% to the top line. So why does Microsoft even bother trying to enter a field where it has little street cred?

Like MSN's iTunes non-threat, MSN music, the new search is just a placeholder, folks, groundwork for the revolution. Microsoft needs to stay on the scene and field a serviceable information hub in order to stay in position to capitalize on whatever's coming up.

We don't know exactly what's going to happen with tomorrow's information tech, but we do know it's going to involve the merger of all things digital: the Internet, high-definition TV, movies, music, and other media. The current crop of clunky media center PCs from Dell (NASDAQ:DELL) aren't going to be inconvenient forever. By the time they're mixed up with specially made operating systems and record-and-play services like those offered by Tivo (NASDAQ:TIVO), or on-demand movies said to be coming from Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX), there will be unforeseen extra billions in potential revenues for those who can steer consumers toward paying advertisers.

For related Foolishness:

Seth Jayson thinks the pocket-protector set has a ways to go before media PCs can compete with regular home entertainment gizmos. At the time of publication, he had positions in no company mentioned. View his stock holdings and Fool profile here. Fool rules are here.