Bing just shows Microsoft still needs Yahoo

By Eric Auchard
June 1, 2009

ericauchard1– Eric Auchard is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own –

Microsoft Corp’s new Web search service Bing is a far cry from the general-purpose tool the company must build or buy to compete effectively with rival Google Inc.

Microsoft would do far better helping users find the emails, documents and Web pages that users of Outlook, Office and Internet Explorer rely on every day.

But competitive restrictions appear to prevent the desktop software giant from doing what it knows best. Microsoft operates its business under oversight from U.S. regulators after it settled antitrust charges in 2002 that it abused its market dominance in personal computer operating systems.

Barring that, Microsoft needs to come to terms with Yahoo over Web search. A deal has eluded them for 16 months but Yahoo remains Microsoft’s best chance for competing with Google on the consumer Internet.

Microsoft offered to pay up to $47.5 billion for Yahoo early last year but was rebuffed by Yahoo’s former leadership. They have been in talks in recent months but no deal has emerged.

Rather than trying to be all things to all people, Microsoft’s latest reboot of its Internet strategy helps consumer dig deeply and find what they are after quicker, but only in a selected set of categories.
Type in the name of an automobile and Bing assumes the user is thinking about buying or repairing a car. For example, the left frame of the search results page for “hyundai sonata” links to reviews, repairs, used cars, dealers, videos, images and reference manuals. A search for “diabetes” turns up health-related categories.

Many of the features Bing incorporates have been tried by smaller Web search providers and failed to make a dent in Google’s share of the audience for Web search: Ask.com or specialist sites like Spock.com for people search or StumbleUpon for videos, to name a few.

Microsoft needed to restart its search strategy somewhere, and had to focus. Offering a search service that works well in some categories, not others, is no option.

Changing consumer habits is hard enough when you are competing with Google, the generic verb for Web search. No one is going to switch willingly from Google unless Microsoft can demonstrate clear improvements in how Bing works.

The demonstration a Microsoft executive gave me showed Bing can help Web users make decisions quicker by anticipating what kind of information they are searching for when they look for travel terms or autos, sports, health, retail or event names. The service goes lives for U.S. users starting on June 1.

It offers a great way to comparison shop for airline tickets that I’ll certainly use when I travel. Many of the improvements Bing offers are designed to help Web shoppers. That’s a lucrative area that will help Microsoft sell advertising, but is only one of the reasons that people use Web search tools.

Microsoft needs to make headway on the consumer Internet because its ability to expand in areas it already dominates is subject to regulatory challenges from competitors small and large that stand in its way.

It is not voguish to say so in hip technology circles — I may lose some Twitter fans here — but resurrecting competition in the desktop computer market has resulted in unfortunate consequences for consumers.

In dozens of little ways, Microsoft seems reluctant or prevented from adopting widely accepted technologies that make the Web easier to use elsewhere.

In recent years, Microsoft has acquired a string of companies that can help it improve search for business users. Chief Executive Steve Ballmer he’s prepared to take years and invest billions to make headway in the consumer Internet market.

What Microsoft has shown with its initial release of Bing is that it needs Yahoo search more than ever.

– Eric Auchard does not own any direct investments in securities mentioned in this article. He may be an owner indirectly as an investor in a fund. –

9 comments

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I have been using bing since yesterday as my normal business research tool and I do not understand your complaints, bing gets me instantly to the resource I am looking for in their top search results.

This includes news articles, government resources and non-commercial information. It also works well for online research providing top articles for obscure research work.

I find bing to be a valuable research tool that does the job that as a small business, I need it to do.

I think Microsoft has a more serious approach to search and find their products highly efficient and useful.

Most importantly, I TRUST MICROSOFT when I do my obscure research work to not use my DATA in a way to harm my small business.

I DO NOT TRUST GOOGLE with my SEARCH DATA or the DISTRIBUTION of my SEARCH DATA to COMPETITORS.

Because of this, for me, Microsoft has provided a highly useful and trusted alternative to Google and in the CASE of my PATENT research and BRANDING work, Google has proved itself HIGHLY UNTRUSTWORTHY as a SMALL BUSINESS SEARCH PLATFORM. As a SMALL BUSINESS I refuse to use Google as they operate contrary to my interests.

In this regard, Microsoft is a more ‘mature company’ and does not use its search product as PREDITORY on SMALL BUSINESS, Google is highly preditory of emerging technology ideas.

The difference being, Microsoft needs to protect its Reputation by offering TRUSTED TOOLS, Google needs to protect a network effects monopoly by destroying new competing tools before they make it to market.

For this reason alone, BING is my choice for Small Business Online Research.

I must say ‘Bing’ is much much better than what live was. Search results are good. However, Microsoft should continue improving its efficiency. That’s the core point of ‘Bing’.

I continue to use Google solely because my work internet access is limited. For some reason, Bing is blocked but Google is not.

“Microsoft would do far better helping users find the emails, documents and Web pages that users of Outlook, Office and Internet Explorer rely on every day. But competitive restrictions appear to prevent the desktop software giant from doing what it knows best.”

um…

http://www.microsoft.com/windows/product s/winfamily/desktopsearch/default.mspx

Posted by SuperC142 | Report as abusive

I would venture most people reading this are techies or nerds who get off on arguments over search engines and/or operating systems.
Many consumers think their browser Is Google, and will use Bing because “it came with their computer.”
So most of these arguments, while apropos among the techies, will never be seen by someone who is just looking for some porn.
At which Bing does a nice job… .

James Reginald Harris, Jr, you TRUST MICROSOFT.

Hmmmmmm…

Well, go you.

Posted by Roald Verbruggen | Report as abusive

SuperC142:

I am well aware of Windows Search and have used it myself. My point is that Microsoft could be INNOVATING in deskop, document email and Web page search to create truly differentiated products.

I was simply pointing out the trade-offs involved in the antitrust settlement.

nonsense. the bing.com is just as good as google. what the heck is the difference?

google can never give you better results. because it needs to direct you to shopping-slanted results to make its money.

remember google is just an instrumented marketing company.

if we actually did have a search engine that didn’t headline with eBay or shopping sites when searching for stuff that would be great,

don’t hold your breath. too much money in current search “technology” – good grief.

Posted by Jimmy 2 times | Report as abusive

It would be nice if ANYTHING from Microsoft worked. Needing a Yahoo deal to deliver a reasonably decent product is proof again that Microsoft cant develop any software which works, for any application. Run for cover – bloated Windows 7 is on the way to replace the failed Vista O/S, XBox has to be revamped, now Bing ….. wasn’t their last stable product DOS 5.0 !! Give your head a shake J.R. Harris……

Posted by Jamison | Report as abusive

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