Microsoft Search Head Speaks

December 10, 2008

I enjoyed Microsoft’s interview with Microsoft’s new head of search, Qi Lu. You can find the information here. The questions were not hard balls, but gently lofted nerf balls. I found the answers intriguing. Before I read the interview, I noted with interest this story about Microsoft’s and Google’s cutting back on the big capex spending for data centers. You can read that story here. No big surprise but Microsoft’s own interview with Microsoft’s own head of search said:

Steve and I first met last September, in a hotel in San Jose, California. We spent almost half a day talking. We talked about the competitive landscape, about the possibility to really innovate and take the user experience [of Microsoft’s search capabilities] to the next level, and about creating a more competitive space, particularly in the search space. We all believe that it’s better for everybody involved when we have a healthy, more competitive environment. Two things he said really stood out. First was the level of commitment on investment. Steve made it very clear how he views that as critical for the long-term future of Microsoft, and his strong commitment to invest in R&D resources is very, very important to me.

I found this somewhat jarring. But that’s a nit. Other points that I noted were:

  • “I think there is a genuine opportunity to take our search products to the next level.”
  • “…we’re here to win, and my view on this is that to win in the search space, fundamentally you build on the strengths of your product.”
  • “We have a clear path from where we are today, to where we need to be, and to reach that next level we need to keep executing and building winning products.”

As I read these comments, several thoughts went through my mind. Yahoo was not able to get an ad platform out the door, so Google ran away with the business. Second, Google has what in my opinion is an insurmountable lead in Web search and is now gunning directly for Microsoft’s liver–the enterprise. And, I am not sure I can accept the assertion of “clear path”. Microsoft has taken runs at Web search before. Microsoft bought Fast Search & Transfer which has a decent Web indexing system and a bit of a problem with Norwegian law enforcement. Microsoft bought Powerset and not done too much with the semantic system yet. I will keep an open mind, but time is running out and demographics are on the side of Googzilla.

Stephen Arnold, December 11, 2008

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