Microsofts Search Beta

By David Coursey  |  Posted 2004-12-14 Print this article Print

Microsoft, in its search beta, has yet to prove itself. Its a pretty baby to be sure, but ever notice how cuter-than-cute child stars grow up to be silly-looking adults? Ill give Microsoft a year and see how its search engine is doing at this time of year in 2005. The battle of the search engines may never be decisively won, at least from an objective "which engine always gives the best results" perspective. I expect Google and Microsoft to head in slightly different directions, making each the best choice for a specific type of searching. Or maybe the two companies will develop more specialized engines for different content types and areas of interest. Googles biggest win has been in capturing the hearts and minds of users and even of the general public, for whom "search" and "Google" have become synonymous. By not overdoing the advertising it presents with search results and by offering a clean user interface, Google has become everybodys friend.
The company has been rewarded by users turning its name into a verb, as in "I Googled tryptophan and found out that eating turkey isnt what causes people to fall asleep after a Thanksgiving meal!"
Yahoo tried becoming a verb with its "Do you Yahoo?" campaign—and failed. I think success requires a name for which people have no strong pre-existing concept of its meaning, and are thus free to create a new meaning of their own. Sure, google is a mathematics term, but how many people ever used it or even knew its meaning before the search engine appropriated it as its name? Its also fun to say and even a bit silly. Its going to turn out that Googles best-ever search will be the one that resulted in its name—done without a search engine, I suspect. Google is opening access to its Gmail e-mail service from desktop clients and mobile devices. Click here for more. Microsoft is not as widely despised as its detractors would like to think. When I ask groups of users, their impression of Microsoft is generally favorable, though not wildly so. Microsoft will never beat Google for hearts and minds. Redmond must instead create a better Google than Google in hopes of persuading users to switch. While Google has fashioned itself as a hugely successful technology company, I consider it to be something else: a modestly successful media company, based on its revenue being from advertising rather than from technology sales. Google has the benefit of single-mindedness in achieving its goal of becoming the worlds favorite portal to online information. Microsoft has such focus at the business-unit level, but whether the companys top execs are as committed to search engine dominance as Google remains to be proved. One important thing Google has that Microsoft has lost is the ability to make its employees very rich. This allows Google to attract the kind of super-smart talent Microsoft used to attract. To combat this, Microsoft is trying to corner the market on Chinese programming geniuses in Beijing, but thats a game Google can play as well. Overall, I rate Microsofts huge size as a neutral factor in the search engine battle, and Googles smaller size as a positive. Next Page: Predictions for 2005.

One of technology's most recognized bylines, David Coursey is Special Correspondent for, where he writes a daily Blog ( and twice-weekly column. He is also Editor/Publisher of the Technology Insights newsletter and President of DCC, Inc., a professional services and consulting firm.

Former Executive Editor of ZDNet AnchorDesk, Coursey has also been Executive Producer of a number of industry conferences, including DEMO, Showcase, and Digital Living Room. Coursey's columns have been quoted by both Bill Gates and Steve Jobs and he has appeared on ABC News Nightline, CNN, CBS News, and other broadcasts as an expert on computing and the Internet. He has also written for InfoWorld, USA Today, PC World, Computerworld, and a number of other publications. His Web site is

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