Microsoft's week was marked by its battle with Google over Bing Web search, Nokia rumors and a resolution to Windows Phone 7's mysterious "data drain" for some users.
Microsoft's relationship with Google, never the most
a bit nuclear this week
The tussle began Feb. 1, when the blog Search Engine Land
published details of what it called Google's "sting operation" against Bing.
Google executives claim they grew suspicious of how closely Bing's search
results mirrored their own, and, after finding terms with no matches on either
search engine, created "honey pot" pages that appeared on the top of search
results for those terms. When a small portion of Bing search results seemed to
mirror Google's forced pages, the latter began leveling accusations.
"Our testing has concluded that Bing is copying Google
Web-search results, and Microsoft doesn't deny this," Amit Singhal, a Google
Fellow, wrote in a Feb. 1 email to eWEEK. "At Google, we strongly believe in
innovation and are proud of our search quality. We look forward to competing
with genuinely new search algorithms out there, from Bing and others-algorithms
built on core innovation, and not on recycled search results copied from a
During a Feb. 1 roundtable discussion at the Farsight
Summit, Microsoft Corporate Vice President Harry Shum defended Bing's
practices. "it's not like we actually copy anything; it's more that we learn
from the customers who willingly share data with us," he told Google Principal
Engineer Matt Cutts, who was sitting beside him, "where we actually learn from
the customers from what kind of queries they type."
Over the next few days, Microsoft continued that line of
defense, claiming that user applications such as the Bing Bar were feeding
voluminous clickstream data-including Google search terms-into Bing. "In simple
terms, Google's -experiment' was rigged to manipulate Bing search results
through a type of attack known as -click fraud,'" Yusuf Mehdi, senior vice
president of Microsoft's online services division, wrote
in a Feb. 2 posting on the Bing Community blog
. "As we have said before and
again in this post, we use clickstream optionally provided by consumers in an
anonymous fashion as one of 1,000 signals to try and determine whether a site
might make sense to be in our index."
Mehdi also hinted that Google might have ulterior motives
behind its operation. "In October 2010, we released a series of big, noticeable
improvements to Bing's relevance. So big and noticeable that we are told Google
took notice and began to worry," he wrote. "Then, a short time later, here come
the honey-pot attacks. Is the timing purely coincidence? Are industry
discussions about search quality to be ignored? Is this simply a response to
the fact that some people in the industry are beginning to ask whether Bing is
as good or in some cases better than Google on core Web relevance?"
Should Google worry? According to research firm comScore,
Bing's share of the U.S. search market stood at 12 percent in December 2010,
well behind Google's 66.6 percent. Yahoo stood at 16 percent, although Bing
powers its back-end search; even if you combine its share into Bing's, however,
the audience for Microsoft's search engine remains half that of Google.
Meanwhile, Microsoft continues to spend-and lose-hundreds of millions of
dollars per quarter on its online initiatives. Nonetheless, Bing has
experienced slow but steady growth since its inception; and Google
executives-defending themselves from periodic accusations of having a monopoly-often
refer to online search as a game whose parameters and dominant player could
Microsoft also crossed swords with another online entity
this week. On Jan. 31, Microsoft
officially confirmed what it termed an "inefficiency"
"synchronization of e-mail between the Windows Phone Mail client and Yahoo!
mail," which is the company's way of saying it blamed a "data drain" bug
affecting Windows Phone 7 devices on Yahoo's mail client. A small subset of
Windows Phone 7 users had been complaining their smartphones devoured data even
when not running applications or cruising the Web, to the tune of 30MB to 50MB
within a 24-hour period in some cases.
But Yahoo seemed to balk at that characterization.
"Yahoo! mail is widely available on tens of millions of
mobile phones, including those running on Apple iOS, Android, Nokia Symbian and
RIM," read a Yahoo spokesperson's Feb. 1 email to eWEEK. "The issue on the
Windows Phones is specific to how Microsoft chose to implement IMAP for Yahoo!
mail and does not impact Yahoo! mail on these other mobile devices."
Microsoft is also planning a smartphone software update that
will address a separate issue related to Exchange ActiveSync e-mail
synchronization. Other updates, reportedly scheduled to arrive in coming weeks,
will tweak application-loading speed and introduce a cut-and-paste feature.
Rumors are also circulating that Nokia, another
considering porting Windows Phone 7 onto its hardware