Microsoft, Search, and Perseverance

July 27, 2011

I no longer spend much time thinking about Microsoft search. Frankly it is too confusing. In my different monographs, I have mentioned or discussed in my typical superficial manner, Outlook search, Windows search, free SharePoint search, Fast Search,Cognition Technologies’ search add in, Powerset search and content processing, various research search systems, SQL Server search, the multiple accounting systems’ search, and probably a few others. But now the focus is on Bing search triggered in part by “Why Microsoft Won’t Dump Bing.” This screed was sparked by the New York Times spider friendly article revealing that Bing was an expensive proposition.

Okay, be still my heart.

Search is expensive. One of the mysteries of online is the natural monopoly. So when an online service is expensive, the number of people in the game is modest. Why is search expensive? As the amount of digital data goes up, so do the plumbing costs. When Mr. Internet was in diapers, indexing content was less expensive. Now the only thing that reduces the cost of indexing is processing modest amounts of content.

Microsoft dumped book scanning an indexing due to cost. But Microsoft is not in a position to concede online search to the fun laddies and lassies at the Google. If anything, Microsoft will spend even more money on search in the foreseeable future.

Here’s why:

First, Microsoft is competing with Google and Google is a monopoly. Knocking off the big dog is tough.

Second, Microsoft bought Fast Search & Transfer, which * actually * had a workable Web indexing system. With $1.2 billion for a darned interesting product, Microsoft is like the guy in the yellow woods who tries to walk down two roads simultaneously. Tough to do without a couple of closely aligned paths. Bing and Fast Search’s Web system are like one path around Yellowstone and the other path running the other way to Jackson Hole. Arduous undertaking even in a sci fi novel.

Third, Microsoft like Google does not have a unified search strategy. Yikes! Heresy. Consider Google. There is the Google Search Appliance, Site Search, the Android search, and the other bits and pieces that look like the same thing but do vary in some fascinating ways. Microsoft’s approach is similar, but Google seems to be morphing into Microsoft. One of the goslings at lunch a moment ago pointed out that he thought the Google banning of companies from Google+ was the genius of a former Microsoft employee. True? False? No one really cares because neither Google nor Bing will be changing their informed approach to search.

Let’s look forward.

Google and Microsoft will face some search challenges because search is no longer the focal point of the teens we have been observing. Asking friends seems to be popular. Apps that deliver info, ready to gobble, no provenance required.

My view is that we will using the decision engine longer than Microsoft bought Bing ads on Adam Carolla’s podcast.

Stephen E Arnold, July 27, 2011

Freebie just like Bing.


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