Posted January 15, 2007 9:58 am by with 2 comments

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The Mercury News takes an in-depth look at the lack of ROI Microsoft is getting from its investment into web technologies, especially search.

Despite introducing a bunch of new products, including a new search experience, online video and Virtual Earth, Microsoft just can’t seem to keep up with Google’s explosive growth.

The result: The number of visitors to Microsoft’s sites has not budged, while the amount of time they have spent there has dropped. Advertising sales have fallen. Meanwhile Google’s traffic and advertising have continued to surge.

I’ve long said that the race is no longer about technology, but brand perception and user experience. Google has done such a great job of capturing mind share that it will be hard for a company such as Microsoft – with their perception of being a controlling company – to ever topple them in the minds of the consumer.

Fortunately for MSFT, they hired CEO, Steve Berkowitz, who has spent many years trying to catch Google with buzz rather than brawn. He seems to get what needs to be done…

“It’s very much around the idea of moving the mindset,” said Berkowitz, who is credited with reviving Ask after the company imploded along with the dot-com bubble. “The technology is the enabler, and the experience is what you have to focus on.”

I fear that it may be an impossible task for the Redmond company. They’ve really hurt themselves over the years with accusations of poor security and the monopoly investigations. I just don’t see anyone ever looking at Microsoft’s search properties and thinking to themselves; “Windows Live Search is just so cool!”

Do you?

  • I just don’t associate Microsoft with search really. To me they are a software company – from my point of view their search engine has never really been adequately marketed. They need some sort of Jobsian Ta-Da! or something, something innovative to get me to use their search engine. Otherwise its just no different and so why would I bother?

    However, I would be interested in the figures for New Zealand, I know we are a couple of small Islands out in the middle of nowhere, but Microsoft is in comparison fairly popular over here. They have partnered with the biggest Telecommunications company it seems (which is also the biggest ISP) and the default home page for ISP customers has MSN search built into it.

  • I think the deciding factor of choosing one search engine over another is the relevancy. It means how quick one can get the desired information. After having the comparable relevancy, new innovative services kicks in to attract users to switch. The current problem with live search is not in new services, but in relevancy. My experience is like this. The statistics of dropping “time spent” reflects this too.