In the last two months since the advent of Bing, there has been a crush of coverage over the search engine that would lead Microsoft, a search and Internet also-ran, to victory over search king Google, whose 65 percent to 70 percent market share of searches leads the thinning pack.
The search pack is thinning because Yahoo has essentially ceded its search share for cash from Microsoft, whose Bing will be powering Yahoo's search on the back end for a decade if the Microhoo deal gets the government's blessing.
But there is also a lot of speculation about whether Microsoft's Bing technology alone is enough to help Microsoft take the search crown from Google. The answer is no and I will explain why later in this piece. So, if Bing can't beat Google in innovation, how can Microsoft overtake Google in search?
I believe the mounting discomfort users have in Google keeping their data for search and other Web services, coupled by negative media surrounding encumbering scrutiny (and possible legal injunctions) from federal regulators could trigger a massive defection of its search engine users to Bing, a scrappy underdog in search with tremendous upside.
First, I'll explain why Bing's technology won't be enough to help Microsoft vault Google in search, then circle back to why the growing perception of Google as a greedy company could spur users to defect.
Many reporters, even this one, have written that Microsoft's search product is vastly improved. Its results are similar to those at Google, accurate and speedy. Overall, the user experience of Bing has been comparable to that of Google, but not incredibly better. Certainly not enough to make millions of users switch in the near term, because people have grown so comfortable with Google. Some exhort us to try.
Microsoft is also pumping as much as $100 million in marketing the new product, and in Yahoo, has a new ally to help it close the gap from 9 percent or so in search to 30 percent. But if Microsoft is to lap Google in search it won't be from any quantum leap in technological innovation.
So let's assume two great scenarios for Microsoft that may or may not come to fruition. First, StatCounter continues to show us that Microsoft Bing continues to gain a percentage point each month going forward and second, regulators approve its deal with Yahoo in 2010.
Assuming those two qualifications are true by this time next year, let's say Microsoft has 40 percent of the search market share, accounting for organic growth, plus the combination of search traffic cultivated by Bing through Yahoo.
Microsoft will still be roughly 20 percent behind Google. Now, let's consider the brief history of search engines. Google is the only company to storm ahead of search incumbents Yahoo, Microsoft, Ask.com, AltaVista and others in the last decade. There is no evidence to suggest the bulk of Google's users will flock to Bing wholesale.