Call it, if you really must, Search 2.0, but the desperation to crack the code that makes semantic search a reality is becoming tangible.

A report today on the excellent VentureBeat website suggests that Microsoft is poised to buy Powerset , a Silicon Valley startup.

Powerset said early last year that it had developed technology that will allow users to make searches in natural language, a trick that if it pulled off could create the next Google, according to experts. The notable thing here is price: Microsoft will pay about $100m for Powerset, according to the report. That’s an eye-watering amount for a startup with zip in disclosed revenues and a few dozen staff; but if Powerset really has crack technology it could be the bargain of the century.

Ever since Google got big, there has been a breakneck race to trump its search capability. It would be good news all-round if a challenger were to emerge. And of course, if Microsoft were to buy that challenger, funding would not be an issue.

And for all of us, our searching might automatically become a lot smarter.

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