Microsoft on Monday said it has hired away Gary Flake, a principal scientist at Yahoo Research Lab and former head of research at the Web portal's Overture Services division.
Flake will set the "technology vision and future direction" for Microsoft's MSN portal, its Web search engine, its desktop search software and its paid search business, according to Microsoft spokeswoman Kathy Gill.
Microsoft recently dropped Yahoo, which acquired Overture in 2003, as its paid search provider to launch its own competing service.
Yahoo, Google and MSN have all benefited from the surge in paid search revenues, adding billions of dollars a year into their coffers. Microsoft will now try to do it alone.
Microsoft's Gill added that Flake will become the first person outside the company appointed as "distinguished engineer."
A Yahoo spokeswoman was not immediately available for comment.