Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer poked Google in the ribs during a talk at Microsoft's Financial Analyst Meeting, but suggested Bing faces substantial challenges in the search-engine space.
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer used a July
29 talk at his company's annual Financial Analyst Meeting to poke Google in the
proverbial ribs. Despite that nudging, he also acknowledged that Microsoft's
own search engine, Bing, lags behind its rival in search-engine market share.
"I was flattered to see that our visual differentiation has been a
source of concern to Google," Ballmer told the assembled analysts,
referring to the Bing landing page's colorful backgrounds, "to see them
emulating us in some ways. I guess that's a form of flattery."
Nonetheless, he added, "We're not confused. We've got a lot of work to
do here. We're not confused that investors see the big price tag to get into
this business and say, 'What's the progress going to look like on that?'"
Although Bing has experienced steady user gains since its launch in summer
2009, its 9.85 percent market share in the United
States-as calculated by research firm
Experian Hitwise-lags far behind that of Google at 71.65 percent. Microsoft's
revenues for its Online Services division rose last quarter to $565 million, but
it also faced a steepening quarterly loss of $696 million
"So we're pushing ahead," Ballmer said. "I can't tell you
that there's a point on the imminent horizon in which you can expect the
business results to flip, but I can tell you to expect to continue to see
really interesting work. We've got a lot of brand buzz."
Instead of challenging Google directly in the realm of traditional keyword
search, Microsoft has chosen to devote resources on what one executive called "nontraditional
areas" such as event-driven tasks and commercial queries. In terms of hard
data, that strategy may be paying off: Hitwise previously reported Bing's
strong growth in a number of vertical industry categories, with the percentage
of U.S. upstream traffic sent from Bing to travel, shopping, automotive and
health care sites increasing by double- or triple-digit percentages over the
course of the past year.
"As we look at how people are using the Web itself and how the Web is
changing, we think we can expand that which people do with these engines,"
Bing Director Stefan Weitz said
to eWEEK in March
. "The more exciting place, and the place we're
looking at more often, is how we expand the art of the possible in search."
Bing recently expanded that strategy to mass media, with the June appearance
of an Entertainment tab that directs users to searches and information
about music, movies, TV, games
and video games-including the ability to listen to songs via Microsoft's
Zune service or play casual games for free. Ballmer's comments at the Financial
Analyst Meeting suggested that the move may have been to appeal to a specific
"If you look at the people who use Bing today," he said, "it
is a younger crowd on average than ... anybody else's search engine. It's been
amazing to see where the pickup and appeal has been."