Posted July 24, 2008 10:24 am by with 6 comments

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As a follow-on to Microsoft’s reorganization, BoomTown has published CEO Steve Ballmer’s internal memo to employees.

It does a pretty good job of rallying the troops, but I was most interested in Ballmer’s comments about Google. I’ve added emphasis to the key words used:

We continue to compete with Google on two fronts—in the enterprise, where we lead; and in search, where we trail. In search, our technology has come a long way in a very short time and it’s an area where we’ll continue to invest to be a market leader. Why? Because search is the key to unlocking the enormous market opportunities in advertising, and it is an area that is ripe for innovation. In the coming years, we’ll make progress against Google in search first by upping the ante in R&D through organic innovation and strategic acquisitions. Second, we will out-innovate Google in key areas—we’re already seeing this in our maps and news search. Third, we are going to reinvent the search category through user experience and business model innovation. We’ll introduce new approaches that move beyond a white page with 10 blue links to provide customers with a customized view of their world. This is a long-term battle for our company—and it’s one we’ll continue to fight with persistence and tenacity.

After my recent meetings at Microsoft, I don’t doubt any of the items bolded above. Microsoft has some very smart people, is working on some innovative stuff in search, and has the war-chest for acquisitions. But, in the war on Google, none of that matters. What’s missing is the message–or the brand.

Microsoft just doesn’t have a brand that makes users want to switch from Google. When you consider that using Google is not like using a Verizon cell phone–you’re not locked into a 2-year agreement–it’s pretty sad that Microsoft–or any other search engine for that matter–can’t persuade us to switch from Google.

When consumers think of Microsoft, they think "Windows." When they think of Google, they think "search." That’s the "front" Microsoft needs to focus on, and history has shown that bigger, better, faster, is not enough to topple Google.

  • Great analysis and a fantastic conclusion with which I entirely agree.

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  • Why does Ballmer and MSN continue to think people want to “move beyond a white page with 10 blue links”? I don’t want to spend my life hanging around a search engine, I want to visit sites. Google simplicity in search is it’s success, period. If anything, MSN needs to focus on improving what shows in those 10 blue links. If they can do that right then they could work on the peripherals.

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  • Microsoft has done a terrible job of branding itself. It’s frightening sometimes to see a company with so much money not do a better job.

  • Dean

    Hey Steve –

    Dilbert called. He wants his corporate buzzword memo template back.

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  • I think your over rating the value of brand here. If Microsoft can build a search engine, that is bigger, better and faster then Google, then Microsoft will own the search engine world. The majority of Google users, are there by choice. They all initially owned a PC with IE installed, and a search box that used Microsofts search, but they didn’t continue to use it. They found their way to Google, because it was bigger, better and faster. Google knows that, and so does Microsoft.

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