There is some debate across the Web over whether or not Google's decision to place a background image onto its search page for a few hours was a shot over Microsoft's bow or a show of acknowledgment that Microsoft is starting to get to the search giant.
Of course, trying to determine Google's motives are practically impossible. The company has little reason to worry about Microsoft, since it still commands a dominating position in the search market. But it also has reason to believe that that position could eventually lose such firm footing, now that Bing has gained more market share.
Either way, Google has little to worry about in the short term. The company's search engine is still the world's best, even though Bing is adding new, compelling features by the day. In the search market, becoming the better service isn't always easy.
As Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has said time and again, the tech business is a long-term game. In the short term, a company might be losing. But with the right strategy and great products, any company can turn a market on its head and start dominating. That is Microsoft's goal. But for the foreseeable future, it will be unattainable in the search space. Try as it might to be better than Google, Microsoft's Bing just hasn't achieved its goal yet. Here are the reasons why:
1. Relevance is everything
Search engines are usually judged by the relevance of their results. When it comes to relevance between Bing and Google, the former doesn't compare. With simple searches, Microsoft's search engine might perform just as well as Google. But tough queries set Google apart. A long, difficult query is more likely to yield relevant results in Google Search than Bing. That's not to say that Microsoft's search engine can't handle difficult queries-it can-but it will take more time finding the right result in Bing than Google.
2. The Web services count for something
When it comes to Web services that go beyond simple search, it's hard to bet against Google. Although Microsoft has Bing Maps, which is arguably better than Google Maps, Google adds in several more services, like Google Docs, Blogsearch and News, that easily best Bing's Web services. And until Bing comes up with a StreetView-like service, it will have a hard time attracting those who want to use Google Maps to find out what a particular location looks like. High-quality Web services mean quite a bit in the search space. Microsoft must remember that.
3. Gmail is top-notch
Those looking for the best Web-based e-mail service will find it with Gmail. Google's e-mail service delivers full integration with the company's online Web services. And although it's not the most popular social network, it's also home to Google Buzz. In most cases, Gmail does a fine job blocking spam. It also gets an added boost from extra features in Google's Labs. Gmail takes some getting used to for those who are accustomed to an Outlook-like interface. But over time, Gmail wins most over. Hotmail just doesn't have it anymore.
4. Speed is a key factor
Google understands the value of speed. The search giant has made it clear with each revision to its service that it wants people to get to its home page, type in a query and get to their destination as quickly as possible. Not only does that cut down on the load Google needs to worry about, it also improves the experience for the user. After all, a search engine is just the middleman. Users don't want to spend time with it. On the Bing front, Microsoft is doing a better job of increasing the speed with which users get to their desired result. But it needs to do a better job if it wants to catch up to Google.