Microsoft Search Strategy Explained — Sort of

April 14, 2009

Ina Fried, CNet, does a very good job of adding some coherence to Microsoft’s Web search strategy. You can read her article “Microsoft’s Search Must Begin in Redmond” here. She has worked hard to take a number of somewhat unrelated Microsoft actions and organizing them so I could see a strategy emerging. The hook for the story struck me as an interview she had with Microsoft’s latest “search trail boss”, a chap named Yusuf Mehdi. I have never met the fellow and his photo looked quite a bit like the Googlers’ photos I have seen–smiling, confident, and ready to try out for America’s Next Top Model.

Ms. Fried pulls out some useful factoids; including:

  • There is internal support at Microsoft for paying people to use its Web search system
  • Microsoft’s year on year market share in search grew less than one percent
  • Microsoft will integrate Powerset, Farecast, and Medstory into its search services
  • A rebranding effort may take place. (I see Kumo in my usage logs for this newsletter
  • Microsoft may spend $100 million on an ad campaign for search.

I came away from this well written story with one thought: “I don’t think Microsoft has a clue about specific tactics that will narrow the gap between its Web search system’s market share (10 percent) and Google’s (about 65 percent). These are still random acts that have done zero to close the gap. Remember, Microsoft has been working at closing the gap with Google for about seven years.

Let’s assume Microsoft does a search deal with Yahoo. Combined the two companies will have a 25 percent share compared to Google 65 percent share. Google has an existing infrastructure, a performance advantage, an index advantage, a cost advantage, and a brand advantage. Sure, Google can muff the bunny. Microsoft might have more luck sitting back and waiting for Google to make a mistake and then attack a specific weakness. Shotgun shells filled with tapioca balls won’t don’t the job. Sipping a bubble tea and waiting might be cheaper and probably won’t cost as much.

Stephen Arnold, April 14, 2009


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