Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer appeared noncommittal on the idea of his company eventually acquiring microblogging site Twitter, while also being bullish on Bing, at the Search Marketing Expo in Santa Clara, Calif., March 2.
Asked during an onstage presentation about whether he wanted to see Bing become the most-used search engine over Google, Ballmer said, "There's no good answer to this question. If you say 'yes,' you sound arrogant. If you say 'no,' you sound like you are happy with second place. No one aims to be second, so the answer is 'yes'."
Video of Ballmer speaking about search and other topics can be found here.
Ballmer also admitted that Microsoft had been "expressing" its frustrations over Google with antitrust officials. Google is currently being scrutinized by a number of government agencies, ranging from the Federal Trade Commission to the Department of Justice, over areas of its business ranging from Google Book Search to its big to purchase AdMob.
Dave Heiner, Microsoft's vice president and deputy general counsel, wrote in a Feb. 26 post on the Microsoft On The Issues blog that the company had tried to explain to regulators how Google supposedly leveraged the search-engine business in its favor. "We told them what we know about how Google is doing business," Heiner wrote. "A lot of that entails explaining the search advertising business, which is complex. Some of that inevitably gets into Google practices that may be harming publishers, advertisers and competition in search and online advertising."
But Ballmer made no indication that he believed Microsoft would eventually overthrow Google in search, saying, "I don't know how old I will be when that'll happen."
He also seemed disinclined to shut the door on the idea of acquiring Twitter, mentioning that, "Whether we need to own the company or not I think is far less clear." However, were Twitter "captive," in Ballmer's words, it could potentially weaken the service's credibility with the online community.
Google claimed 65.4 percent of U.S. online searches in January, according to research firm comScore, while Bing owned 11.3 percent. Yahoo recorded a 17-percent share, although a search-and-advertising deal will see Bing power Yahoo's back-end search sometime in 2010, which will effectively port at least a sizable portion of Yahoo's share over to Microsoft. In the meantime, Bing has been improving its offerings in an attempt to eat away at Google's share.