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.